Donald Trump wrapped up the Republican nomination and instead of exploiting a 6-week head start, he preceded to frack deep into his soul to new depths.
Listing his foibles would take weeks so let’s sum up the highlights: He attacked his party’s most prominent elected Latina; he spent a full week explaining that an American-born judge couldn’t be fair because he is “Mexican;” he congratulated himself for a terror attack that killed 49 people; finally, he accused the president of the United States of conspiring with ISIS and then banned one of the nation’s most important newspapers from covering him because it correctly reported that he made this accusation, which he later repeated using a link from Breitbart dot com as proof.
The result of this spree of horrors?
These mistakes are all terrible in their own right. But two stand out as strategic abominations.
The attack on Judge Curiel is likely Trump’s worst unforced error since he mocked a disabled reporter because it was entirely tied to the fraud charges related to Trump University. Sure, he appealed to the vile racism that has made him so popular with the GOP base, but it did it completely in service of his own shoddy reputation.
“He’s the billionaire blue-collar guy,” Ted Cruz’s campaign manager Jeff Roe explained. “That’s why this Mexican judge thing is different. That’s him looking out for himself, instead of him looking out for you.
And going after the Washington Post is a step-on-a-giant-rake error because journalists responded with a kind of revulsion they tend to temper when Trump proposes genuinely horrific things like banning a religion or deporting 11 million people. It also forces the people who have to cover this election to imagine the extremes Trump would go to if he were actually the most powerful person in the world.
That said. Democrats should not expect Trump to keep being this foolish. He may get worse, of course. But at the peak of his last downward spiral in late March, I pointed out he was due for a good few months. And he was. This is what the press wants — a close race.
You know the House Select Benghazi Committee report is coming. You know there will be a moment when the email thing seems like it may actually matter. And there’s still the matter of uniting the party.
But keep in mind that Trump isn’t running an unconventional campaign. He’s running a terrible campaign. A campaign so terrible it may even put Utah into play.
He’s attacking Republicans as often as Democrats. He’s thinking interviews where he comes off as increasingly unhinged will make up for a lack of paid advertising. And he is an anchor for the entire party he now represents.
That said, conservatives have spent decades and billions polarizing the electorate. The animosity they’ve carefully built against the left will be aroused: Trump’s numbers are bound to rise. When that happens, don’t buy the comeback myth. It’s a natural equilibrium attempting to revert against an extraordinarily divisive candidate.
But the combination of a steady, professional campaign set on defining Trump before summer and Trump’s own self-destructive tendencies still present the opportunity for a landslide of historic proportions.
[Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]