Letting Trump Be Trump May Not Lead to Victory

Donald Lambro
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Posted: Aug 19, 2016 12:01 AM
Letting Trump Be Trump May Not Lead to Victory

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's latest shakeup of his senior staff has all the earmarks of a campaign in disarray.

His action comes at a critical time when his polls have fallen further behind Hillary Clinton, especially in the battleground states, and his troubled campaign has been lurching dangerously from one controversy to another.

This is when a well-run campaign operation should be building its ground game in the big electoral states that will decide the election's outcome. But GOP insiders say that is still very much a work in progress.

"Many observers have noted that in the last six decades of modern presidential polling, the candidate with the lead in the polls two weeks after the final convention has always won," writes veteran campaign analyst Charlie Cook in his widely read political newsletter.

Little more than 80 days "before the Nov. 8 election, we see this race settling into a very high probability that Hillary Clinton prevails over Donald Trump, though the size of the margin is still up in the air," Cook says.

Realclearpolitics.com, the website that averages all of the major polls, has shown Clinton running eight points ahead of her rival.

This is a time when Trump should have already united his party behind his candidacy, but a large swath of rank- and-file candidates are not supporting him, or ignoring him altogether.

In recent weeks since the convention, things have only gone from bad to worse for the real estate mogul. He criticized the parents of a Muslim-American soldier who was killed in Iraq. He has insisted in an interview with ABC News that Russian weapons and troops were not in the Ukraine, swallowing Vladimir Putin's lies that Moscow played no part in the invasion. He has accused President Obama and Hillary Clinton of being the "founders" of the Islamic State's terrorist organization.

It didn't help when The New York Times broke the story that his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, received more than $12 million from a pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine. That shed new light on the Trump campaign's role at the GOP convention, when the party's platform committee weakened language that would have called for U.S. support for the besieged Ukrainian government.

This week, with his campaign stumbling from one blunder to another and tumbling in the polls, Trump put two people in full charge of his presidential bid who have never before run a national campaign.

He named Stephen Bannon, who heads the Breitbart News website organization, a hard-core conservative outlet, as his campaign's chief executive. He also picked Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Republican pollster, to be his campaign manager.

To those who know him, Bannon is a take-no-prisoners political in-fighter who sought to build a global news media conglomerate of "real hell fighters." His nonprofit subsidiary, the Government Accountability Institute, brought out the best-selling book "Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Business Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich."

But neither of them has held such high-level political positions before. Running a website or conducting political polls is one thing. But running a presidential campaign in all 50 states is quite another.

Yet both are in the "Let Trump Be Trump" camp, rejecting those in the GOP's establishment who want the candidate to reach out to the wider base of the party and the broader electorate.

Both appointments sent a fiery signal that Trump isn't about to modify his incendiary campaign style. On the contrary, he was sending a reassuring message to his diehard supporters who flocked to his banner in the primaries and got him the nomination: This time it's no more Mr. Nice Guy.

There's another disturbing side of Trump. He lives in a delusional political world in which he keeps reliving his presidential primary victories, believing the people who voted to nominate him can carry him into the White House.

But there's a sea of difference between the number of voters who turn out in the Republican primaries and the 211 million eligible voters in the general electorate. To win the presidency, he needs to draw support from ethnic voters, from independents, and from working-class voters who tend to vote Democratic, but who backed Ronald Reagan in 1984, when he carried 49 states.

Hispanic Americans are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States. Reports coming in from the states tell us that they are registering to vote in larger numbers this time -- with Clinton drawing more than two-thirds of their vote.

There were nearly 5 million Hispanic voters in Florida in 2014. It's a safe bet they're going to go for Clinton big time this year.

President Obama won 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012 in the general election. George W. Bush won 40 percent, a decent showing. Polls show Trump doing poorly among them in November.

This week, the Cook Report said that polls show Clinton has 21 states plus the District of Columbia in her column, which would give her a total of 272 electoral votes, two more than she needs to win.

Trump leads in 22 states "plus four of Nebraska's five votes ... for a total of 190 electoral votes -- 80 short of victory. In the Toss Up column are five states plus Maine and Nebraska's second congressional districts totaling 76 electoral votes."

"As the race stands today," Cook says, "Trump could sweep the entire Toss Up column and still come up two electoral votes short of the 270 needed to win."

Stay tuned.