Matt wrote earlier about the Wall Street Journal's editors suggesting that if he can't clean up his act very soon, he should hand the nomination over to Mike Pence and walk away. There's no chance of this actually happening, of course, but the Journal's angst over Trump's flailing campaign channels the fears of many Republicans who are reaching a tipping point. He's trailing Hillary by seven points nationally, he's down in (almost) every major swing state -- tanking badly in several -- while Democrats are contesting a number of traditionally red states like Indiana, Georgia, Arizona, Utah and possibly even Kansas. The candidate careens from one stream-of-consciousness harangue to the next, fostering a target-rich environment for a mainstream media that's already predisposed to slant coverage against Republicans. Making matters worse, his campaign manager is beginning the week's news cycle by denying multiple reports that he received millions in off-the-books payments from Putin's puppet government in Kiev -- the original expose of which, I should mention, was notably amplified by Trump's former campaign manager, who was promptly accused of being a pro-Clinton operative by another Trump ally. You're welcome to believe that all is well. But it's not. Thus, today's fanciful editorial:
Mr. Trump’s advisers and his family want the candidate to deliver a consistent message making the case for change. They’d like him to be disciplined. They want him to focus on growing the economy and raising incomes and fighting terrorism. They think he should make the election a referendum on Hillary Clinton, not on himself. And they’d like him to spend a little time each day—a half hour even—studying the issues he’ll need to understand if he becomes President. Is that so hard? Apparently so… If [Trump’s supporters] can’t get Mr. Trump to change his act by Labor Day, the GOP will have no choice but to write off the nominee as hopeless and focus on salvaging the Senate and House and other down-ballot races. As for Mr. Trump, he needs to stop blaming everyone else and decide if he wants to behave like someone who wants to be President—or turn the nomination over to Mike Pence.
The Journal calls the current state of affairs a "moment of truth," which borders on adorable. The party's many potential moments of truth over Trump have come and gone. The hard, actual truth is that he's been telling voters exactly who he is for more than a year. A plurality of Republican primary voters -- who handed Trump the lowest victory percentage of any GOP nominee since the advent of the modern primary system -- liked what they saw. The rest couldn't get their collective act together to stop him, and as of Cleveland, the entire party is officially saddled with him. Rich Lowry points out that the RNC cutting bait with a doomed nominee isn't unprecedented; that's what happened to Bob Dole in 1996, en route to a Clinton blowout. But Lowry is right that while Dole accepted the inevitable triage for the good of down-ballot races, Trump would never accept such an explicit affront to his ego. Any sense of betrayal would touch off a round of recriminations designed to hurt his own alleged party. The National Review editor argues that abandoning Trump would likely transform a deflating, election loss glide-path into a Hindenburg situation. Then again, party officials have begun publicly discussing potential drop-dead dates after which money and resources would be redirected to more competitive Senate and House races. You know the turbulence is getting truly worrisome when even featured soloists in Trump's media chorus are already blaming other people for his loss, and effectively referring to his campaign in the past tense. But wait, isn't it possible that Trump could turn it around, get disciplined, stay on message, and blast away at the Democrats' scandal-plagued nominee? Perhaps in an alternate universe, sure. But Trump is Trump. In addition to his conduct over the course of the entire campaign, a New York Times piece over the weekend quotes an array of Trumpworld sources who paint a deeply dysfunctional picture:
Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals. In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change. He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories...In interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering. He is routinely preoccupied with perceived slights, for example raging to aides after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in his re-election announcement, said he would stand up to the next president regardless of party. In a visit to Capitol Hill in early July, Mr. Trump bickered with two Republican senators who had not endorsed him; he needled Representative Peter T. King of New York for having taken donations from him over the years only to criticize him on television now. And Mr. Trump has begun to acknowledge to associates and even in public that he might lose.
Many of us warned that Trump's schtick wouldn't wear well in a general election setting, arguing that his ignorance and impulse control issues would alienate most voters. We were told that the abundant evidence backing up these admonitions was belied by his glorious success with primary voters -- the majority of whom rejected him, and who constitute a small fraction of the overall electorate. We were told, in fact, that Trump would revolutionize the entire process, putting deep blue states like New York in play. To show how serious he was about such things, Trump even spent money in the Empire State. This year was going to be different; just watch. "I think we'll win New York, I really do," the candidate boasted in April. I'll direct your attention to a new statewide survey out of New York:
Trump carried every county in New York except for Manhattan in his primary election thrashing of the GOP field. Today, nearly half of the state's registered Republicans are either undecided on whether to vote for him, or are supporting Mrs. Clinton. He's down 30 points. Prior to this poll, his average deficit in New York was approximately 18 points, which is better than Mitt Romney's landslide defeat there four years ago, but worse than the billionaire's ugly margin in California -- another state he predicted he'd win "pretty substantially" in the fall. Over the weekend, Trump eschewed an opportunity to address conservatives in the "battleground" state of Colorado, in favor of holding a rally in...Connecticut. The delusion continues, it seems. Back on planet earth, the only remaining questions are whether this disaster can be salvaged, whether Trump is capable of a competent performance in the crucial first debate, and whether the Kremlin has another card up its sleeve against Hillary.