The hits are coming fast and furious now, with new reports of panic and internal turmoil popping up almost hourly (why, here's another one, just now). It'd be one thing if "the establishment" -- which has boosted and protected Trump in the face of conservative critics -- were sinking a shiv into Trump's back with anonymous quotes and leaks to the press. That could be explained away as sour grapes or pro-Hillary sabotage by people whose power structure is threatened by Mister Trump's glorious revolution. But many of the quotes and moves witnessed over the last 24 hours are coming from inside the GOP nominee's trusted circle. These are loyalists who are invested in his success, yet who've taken to public fretting about a feared slow-motion implosion. As I wrote this morning, if you're rooting for Trump, he seriously needs to improve. Quickly. But don't take my word for it. Via NBC News:
Key Republicans close to Donald Trump's orbit are plotting an intervention with the candidate after a disastrous 48 hours led some influential voices in the party to question whether Trump can stay at the top of the Republican ticket without catastrophic consequences for his campaign and the GOP at large. Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former Republican New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the Trump endorsers hoping to talk the real estate mogul into a dramatic reset of his campaign in the coming days, sources tell NBC News. The group of GOP heavyweights hopes to enlist the help of Trump's children - who comprise much of his innermost circle of influential advisers - to aid in the attempt to rescue his candidacy. Trump's family is considered to have by far the most influence over the candidate's thinking at what could be a make-or-break moment for his campaign.
The piece quotes sources who say many Republicans were "stunned" by Trump's escalation and extension of a multi-day fight against a Muslim gold star family, which has gone so poorly that his campaign finally felt compelled to circulate an "URGENT PIVOT" memo to its surrogates. With respect, anyone who is flabbergasted by literally anything we've seen over the last week hasn't been paying attention. Trump has been loudly shouting "this is who I am!" for the past year. Precisely none of his actions are surprising at this stage. Nevertheless, erstwhile servile water-carrier Chris Christie has denounced Trump's Khan attacks -- and is reportedly refusing to join the aforementioned "intervention" because he's still pouting over being snubbed as VP, which sounds about right. Newt Gingrich, another stalwart defender who only criticizes the candidate when things get really bad, is letting candid critiques fly. He calls Trump's behavior "very self-destructive," likening it to a quarterback throwing interceptions. Trump is not "performing at the level" he needs to in order to win, the former House Speaker told Maria Bartiromo, adding that the nominee's head still seems to "be in the primaries." Newt called the situation "very disheartening to most of his supporters." CNN reports that morale is low within the Trump campaign itself, with top aides griping that the candidate won't listen to anyone:
A knowledgeable Republican source told CNN that some of Trump's campaign staff -- even campaign manager Paul Manafort -- "feel like they are wasting their time," given Trump's recent comments. And two sources close to the Trump campaign said privately they wished Trump would apologize to the Gold Star family, even though the Khans attacked Trump from the stage at the Democratic National Convention last month. One of those sources, who has spoken on Trump's behalf, said Trump should go further and apologize to "all military families." Two Trump insiders said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has talked to Trump several times in recent days, conveying the dismay among senior party leaders and donors. It has been relayed to Trump hat he is losing what tenuous support he has in the party establishment, and that already skeptical donors are heading for the exits or telling the senior team can't count on serious progress when he looks so toxic. "(Manafort) has made clear no one can help him if no one believes he will do what it takes to win," said a senior trump aide.
More on Manafort, Trump's top man:
longtime ally of Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager: "Manafort not challenging Trump anymore. Mailing it in. Staff suicidal."— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) August 3, 2016
One of the pretensions of Trump's candidacy is that he's a world-class manager who surrounds himself with the very best people. This is belied by his own stated philosophies on life and leadership, but let's pretend for a moment that he's turned over a new leaf. Let's also pretend that Trump's presidential effort is staffed with the best and brightest political minds. What good would any of that do if he isn't willing listen to anyone? Speaking of 'mailing it in,' as it currently stands, Trumpworld is primed to get outspent 100-to-1 on the airwaves in swing states this fall. Some battleground states are still competitive. Other states that should be GOP locks are turning into battlegrounds. As you read these polls out of Arizona (trailing) and Utah (tied), bear in mind the Trump campaign's recent boasting about how deep blue states like New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois and California were supposedly "in play" for them. Several new indicators suggest that they may be waking up to reality on some level, but they're still keeping certain delusions alive with a new "secret" state strategy:
Trump's secret plan to win the election. pic.twitter.com/7N17tvooLb— Tom Bevan (@TomBevanRCP) August 3, 2016
He must keep that clandestine roadmap in the same drawer as his super secret, can't-talk-about-it plan to defeat ISIS easily and fast. Believe him. Meanwhile, Trump is sacking staffers, fielding phone calls from an "apoplectic" RNC chairman over this little stunt, and watching his fired campaign manager dredge up Obama birther theories on national television. A trickle of current and former Republican officials and office-seekers are starting to openly defect to Clinton or third parties, and if fresh rumors are to be believed, the dam may be threatening to burst:
More from same source: The next 24 to 72 hours are crucial. There is serious talk about key Republicans coming out hard against Trump.— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) August 3, 2016
A campaign directive distributed to House GOP candidates by the NRCC encourages any member whose fate may be dragged down by Trump to cut the presidential nominee loose. It reads like an emergency 'firewall' document from a party that fears the possibility a wave election, although it notes that many vulnerable Republicans are outpacing Trump's support and emphasizes how to capitalize on Hillary Clinton's myriad weakness. I'll leave you with this ABC News report that some top party officials have begun "actively exploring" a contingency in which Trump exits the race:
All Trump has to do is quit voluntarily. Because that's likely, given everything we know about the man. Another pipe dream. This round of panic may prove lasting or fleeting; either way, this is the nominee. Period. The New York Times' sources are also saying that "Republican lawmakers and strategists have begun to entertain abandoning him en masse." The same might be said of swing voters:
Last three national polls have Trump's unfavorable rating back above 60%. Free media!https://t.co/8n2u1Tw3Wh— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) August 2, 2016
Gap is still < 5 points, but trajectory out of conventions -- plus Trump conduct -- is what has stoked GOP panic: pic.twitter.com/lSNjpwIKBx— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) August 3, 2016
He can theoretically still turn this thing around through a combination of strong debate performances his broadly-detested opponent's seemingly endless supply of awfulness. Hillary Clinton said in her acceptance speech last week that "there is no other Donald Trump. This is it." His supporters should pray that she's as wrong about that as she is about so many things.
Really, really tough assessment from Newt, who's been a stalwart Trump ally --> pic.twitter.com/pBpkaDI7xI— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) August 3, 2016