By Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is making an effort to revamp his image, but this will be a tall order for the bombastic billionaire so late in the race, experts said.
Trump is infamous for making over-the-top and insulting statements toward political opponents as well as whole demographics. He has compared Mexicans to rapists and in the past called for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the U.S., although he later walked the latter comments back a bit.
But it remains unknown whether he can soften his public persona, stay on message, and put forth a new, statesman-like image that will appeal to those in the middle - a sharp contrast to the firebrand who has galvanized Americans who are frustrated at being left behind in today's economy.
Trump last week made a speech on his plan to combat terrorism, avoiding the hot-headed, off-the-cuff remarks for which he is infamous. He even regretted for making insulting remarks before that hurt some people.
To appear presidential, he recently toured the flood-ravaged areas in the state of Louisiana, while President Barack Obama was criticized for continuing to have vacation despite the disaster.
But can Trump continue this? And if he does, will it help him in this late stage in the presidential race?
Some analysts note that there's still nearly three months to go before Americans cast their ballots in November. Moreover, there will be a series of one-on-one debates between Trump and Clinton that will be televised nationwide, and if he can stay on message now and during the debates, he may have a chance to clinch the White House in fall.
Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua that while it's certainly not too late, Trump has now had plenty of time to make his impression on the minds of voters.
Indeed, Trump has in the past seemed to turn a corner by giving a cogent and well-argued speech, only to ruin those gains later by reverting to his over-the-top self.
Mahaffee said any image revamp requires Trump to stay entirely on message and to establish and consistently reiterate policy proposals that would result from a Trump presidency.
In doing so, he can continue to attack Clinton-which will satisfy his base-while also trying to be more presidential to please moderates, Mahaffee said.
But others contend that Trump has already caused the public to form strong opinions about him, and it will be hard for him to change this.
"First impressions matter a lot, so it is late to reset people's impressions. As seen in public opinion surveys, many Americans already have formed strong opinions about Trump. They see him as rude and not qualified for the presidency. It will be hard for him to turn things around," Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.
"He pretty much is at the point where he can't totally revamp his image," West said.
If Trump seeks dramatic change, Democrats will accuse him of flip-flopping on his earlier positions, he said.
Trump's own supporters could even turn against him if he goes too far toward the middle and if he seems to trail away from those who got him to this point.
"Changing views on major issues generally upsets early supporters, who came to the candidate for the strong views that were expressed at that point," West said.
Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, wrote over the weekend on CNN.com that Republicans must face the fact that Trump is the person who he is.
Although people have speculated for months that Trump would pivot to a mode more appealing to the wider audience of general election voters, as opposed to the conservative base of the Republican Party, he has continually failed to stay that course, Zelizer contended.
"Occasionally he gives carefully calibrated speeches using a teleprompter, but then immediately reverts to his more extreme messages," he argued.
Trump has shown no interest in backing away from the kind of provocative style and his advisers have not been able to push him in a different direction and as he slips in the polls, he added.
Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, told Xinhua: "I think it's probably too late - opinions of the candidates are pretty much set at this point."
"A reset for Trump would have to involve behaving like a typical candidate until the election and I think Trump lacks the discipline to do that," he said.