Every small step a presidential campaign takes at this point will draw wide inspection for what it may symbolize.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton announced key leadership picks this week. She named a transition chief for her hoped-for administration; he tapped two new top officials to head his campaign organization.
The credentials of all three help define both candidates’ thinking of the moment.
Clinton’s selection of former Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar to plan a campaign-to-White House strategy reflects her tight bond with the Obama administration in which she also served.
It also hints at a stay-the-course attitude.
Fans in insider circles praised Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado, as a good administrator. But Clinton’s critics on the left brand Salazar more of a minus than a plus.
For one thing, he’s been an outspoken backer of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that Obama supports but Clinton came to oppose during her primary fight against Sen. Bernie Sanders.
For another, Salazar has publicly sided with allowing hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, at least as hard-line environmentalists see it.
Molly Dorozenski, director of the Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaign, calls his appointment “the wrong move for a candidate who needs to strengthen her progressive policies, not weaken them.”
Trump, who already chose New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as transition leader, shook up his campaign by diminishing the role of top aide Paul Manafort, a longtime lobbyist and campaign professional now catching flak over foreign clients.
Manafort’s private alliances seemed to jibe with Trump’s pro-Russian tilt in European relations.
Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of the pro-Trump, anti-Clinton Breitbart News website founded by the late conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, now becomes chief executive officer for the campaign.
He’s already played a cameo role in this year’s Trump drama.
Reporter Michelle Fields quit Breitbart and said Bannon and other bosses failed to take her side after she allegedly had her arm grabbed by then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as she tried to ask Trump a question at a public event.
So Bannon’s ascent suggests that Trump will stick, as expected, with the same kind of loyalists who oblige his petulant style as he tries to climb in the polls.
Like the candidate, Bannon has establishment credentials; he is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and peddles his own line of Wall Street-style banter.
A sample: He told Bloomberg News last year, “One of the things Goldman teaches you is, don’t be the first guy through the door because you’re going to get all the arrows.
“If it’s junk bonds, let Michael Milken lead the way,” he said. “Goldman would never lead in any product. Find a business partner.”
Kellyanne Conway, now carrying the title of campaign manager, is a lawyer and familiar guest commentator on TV political shows. She worked for GOP polling firms before founding her own more than 20 years ago.
Anyone looking for a sign that major party candidates would change political paths before November is best advised to look beyond these three picks.