Monday, August 15, 2016
Donald Trump's unprecedented, bizarre candidacy appears to have finally driven off the proverbial cliff. And it's only August. Now before folks remind me that I've been wrong about him in the past--naively predicting his political demise countless times--let me assure you, this time it's different.
For starters, there's a major distinction between the realities of the Republican primaries, through which only about 16% of Americans vote, and the general election. Yes, I was wrong about Trump. Many times. Shame on me. I gave Republicans way too much credit than they deserved. Turns out they were way more ignorant and racist than I could ever imagine. But that was then. This is now.
Since last June, Trump's consistently defied conventional wisdom by re-writing the How-to-Win-a-Nomination playbook and getting much further than anyone (except maybe MSNBC's Joe Scarborough) ever imagined, especially the candidate himself. If there was a book titled "100 Things Never, Ever to Do or Say When Running for President," he'd be guilty of committing every single sin. And he gives no indication of ever changing, even when implored to by the Republican establishment, big donors, his advisors and after being subjected to a rumored 'intervention' by his family. The biggest proponent of "Let Trump Be Trump" is the man himself. His much anticipated, sorely needed 'pivot' has yet to arrive and likely never will.
If Trump is to win the presidency, he needs to be expanding his base. He cannot and will not win with just angry blue-collar white men. His support among women, blacks, Hispanics and the college educated is almost non-existent. His latest gaffes over the Gold Star Khan family, his "2nd Amendment people" threat, and claiming President Obama is the "founder of Isis" appear to have crossed a very critical non-partisan line, offending not just liberals and Democrats, but military families, patriots and decent people of both parties. In short, at this late stage in the race, he's doing the exact opposite of what he should be doing.
Despite the enthusiastic cable-news spin coming from advisors and surrogates, the campaign is clearly in a state of chaos. Trump's been dropping precipitously in the polls (double-digits). He's trailing Hillary Clinton badly in many key battleground states (leads that will be hard to reverse). He's being abandoned by moderate, mainstream, influential Republicans (including 50 major national security experts). He's doing poorly with independent voters (who prefer substantive policy over whining about the media). His staff's in turmoil (they can't control their candidate, and he's blaming them for his misgivings). He lacks a meaningful ground game (impossible to win without one). And he can't stay on message (wasting time counter-punching every perceived slight).
But what's most telling is that Trump himself appears to be throwing in the towel, an ominous sign from a normally carnival-barking, poll-obsessed, self-aggrandizing, narcissistic "winner." He's all but conceded the key state of Pennsylvania, claiming it will be "rigged" for Clinton: "The only way we can lose, in my opinion...is if cheating goes on." And he's acknowledged a big problem in the heavily Mormon, red state of Utah: "I'm having a tremendous problem in Utah."
According to a scathing front page inside account of Trump's campaign in Sunday's NY Times, he's become "exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering."
And as reported in Politico on Monday, no presidential candidate since 1952 in Trump’s low polling position at this stage of the campaign has won the popular vote.
To be sure, Trump's demeanor is changing, demonstrating behavior of a loser-in-waiting, apparently setting himself up for a face-saving exit from the most outlandish, unconventional, mean-spirited, divisive presidential election in American history.
"At the end, it's either going to work or I'm going to have a very, very nice long vacation," Trump said last week. Adding, "You know, I go back to a very good way of life."