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Donald Trump restructures campaign staff after threat of contested convention

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was met by protesters in the Bronx at a rally in New York City
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The Republican primary road to 1,237 delegates is expected to be a bumpy one for front-runner Donald Trump, whose opponents -- fellow presidential candidates, anti-Trump super PACs, and people who just don't like him -- are dead set on denying him that requisite number before the party's convention this summer.

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But Trump is fighting back, and, after announcing a major campaign shake-up Thursday, the billionaire will be doing so with an experienced "convention manager" by his side.

"The nomination process has reached a point that requires someone familiar with the complexities involved in the final stages," Trump said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "I am organizing these responsibilities under someone who has done this job successfully in many campaigns."

That latest staff hire is Paul Manafort, a campaign vet who has worked on the Republican conventions that nominated Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole. (According to a Washington Post profile of Manafort, the lobbyist has a long and colorful history of consulting for some rather unsavory political figures, including Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's former president and a friend of Vladimir Putin.)

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Of Manafort's role in his campaign, Trump said it would "allow the rest of my team to deal with the increasing needs of a national campaign for both the pre-Convention phase and most importantly, the general election.

It's unclear whether Manafort will take over any of the duties that usually fall to Trump's embattled campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

But the campaign statement mentioned Manafort would be "working closely" with Lewandowski, as well as deputy campaign manager Michael Glassner.

Manafort is further expected to "direct the campaign's activities" that deal specifically with delegate operations, along with opening up a Washington, D.C. office for the Trump campaign.

Manafort's long history with GOP presidential politics and his familiarity with the intricacies of convention delegates could also send a reassuring signal that Trump is professionalizing his campaign. CBS News' Major Garrett reported Thursday that Manafort would be taking a "bigger structural role" in three important tasks: preparing in the case of a contested convention, securing delegates, and creating a larger structure for the campaign with an towards the general election.

"Securing the Republican nomination is an intricate series of steps that requires a comprehensive strategy," Manafort said in a campaign statement. "I am honored that he has allowed me to join him in this effort."

The campaign expects to hire several more campaign operatives and promote more players in the weeks ahead.

Trump's campaign restructuring comes just as the New York business mogul defends his home state territory against any encroachment from rival Ted Cruz. Earlier on Thursday, Trump cancelled his scheduled trip to California, opting instead to focus campaigning in New York.

New York's primary, where 95 delegates are at stake, is scheduled for April 19.

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