It wasn’t all that long ago that Trump was riding high.
He got the bump that he was looking for from his convention and many around the country were starting to talk about what a Trump presidency would look like.
But as quickly as he rose, he fell.
He couldn’t allow the spotlight to shine on anyone else.
Even after Clinton stumbled in an interview about her dealings with the FBI, Trump produced a virtual waterfall of “news” that turned the spotlight back on himself. In more or less chronological order he:
- Attacked a Gold Star Muslim family who spoke out against his immigration policies.
- Said that the NFL sent him a letter complaining about the debate dates (NFL said it sent no such letter).
- Claimed that Russia would not invade Ukraine only to have to backtrack when informed that they already did in 2014
- Criticized a fire marshal in Columbus because the occupancy code was enforced.
- Praised Paul Ryan’s primary opponent.
- Told a woman with a crying baby to leave his rally.
- Accepted a Purple Heart from a vet with the statement, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart, this was much easier.” Less than a day earlier, the NYT published a piece on his Viet Nam draft dodging.
- Refused to endorse Ryan, McCain, and Ayotte (he backtracked on this too later in the week)
- Claimed that the November elections would be rigged against him
- Claimed to have seen a top secret Iranian video of money being unloaded from a plane in Iran. What he actually saw was publicly available video shot in Switzerland that had nothing to do with delivery of money to Iran. His campaign then corrected him. Then he repeated the lie again.
He has played right into Clinton’s hands with this strategy. Her campaign has portrayed Trump as a dangerous choice and then patiently waited for Trump to prove it. Just one indication of how big an issue this has become is when Charles Krauthammer, that champion hater of everything liberal, feels he has to comment on Trump’s fitness for the office.
As Trump’s poll numbers dropped, a parade of Republican incumbents have abandoned him.
Mr. Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”
Mr. Trump, the officials warn, “would be the most reckless president in American history.”
Mr. Trump responded by laying the blame for the world “mess” at their feet. He blamed them not only for the Iraq war, but also for the deaths in Benghazi and the rise of ISIS. The latter two are curious since they occurred during the Obama administration when all of these officials were out of power. But that’s about par for the course for the Trump campaign.
Here’s the basic problem.
The strategy that Trump used to monopolize the news cycle during the primaries is backfiring. During the primaries the gaggle of other candidates were spending all of their time responding to Trump’s endless streams of insults and bravado.
In this general election cycle, the press is trying to inform the voters about who Trump is. They hold him accountable for every gaffe. They document the responses of experts when he says something dangerous. But the sheer volume of this information simply reinforces Clinton’s claim that she is the more mature and experienced choice. At this point, she doesn’t have to do a lot more other than to remind people that she isn’t Trump.
If Trump were able to stay on message for more than a day, he would have a real chance in this election because Clinton IS well known and has high negatives with many voters.
At this point, however, it may be too late.
His latest attempt to demonstrate some gravitas in a speech at the Detroit Economic Club drew mixed reviews. His economic plan is a mishmash of old Republican ideas, old Democratic ideas, and new populist stuff. There was a little something for everyone, which will likely confuse rather than satisfy undecided voters. Just a couple of examples include making child care deductible. Most working people don’t file the more complicated form required to claim this deduction. Poor people don’t pay enough in taxes to take advantage of it. As a result, it mostly benefits those that are well off. That doesn’t square with his core demographic. He also pledged to halt new regulations including those that would affect Wall Street. This is seems to be at odds with his claim that he was going to crack down on Wall Street.
Trump is his own worst enemy because under the pressure of this campaign his true nature is on display for the whole country. That nature is an unstable narcissist with an insatiable appetite for the spot light. But like many who have also suffered from that obsession, the public is beginning to realize that he isn’t the winner that he claims to be. He doesn’t really have wings, just wax and feathers. Those are not enough to carry him to victory in the November.