At various times during the 2016 campaign, and most recently, as Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination for president at the Republican National Convention, GOP regulars have begun to migrate toward Donald Trump. As the convention progressed, a consensus started to develop that Trump has great kids and so he couldn’t be all that bad, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and others made a compelling case for why we need Trump as president. Some amnesia began to set in, and the idea that maybe Trump could be worth supporting in the general election was starting to gain momentum. But, as with other second or third looks Trump has gotten, he has managed to snuff out whatever accommodations reluctant voters may have been willing to make for him.
I’ve never been in the “Never Trump” camp; I’ve mostly been waiting on Trump to be the type of candidate I would be comfortable voting for. Like many other Republicans, I have kept the door open for Trump, waiting for him to clear the bar with a rational basis for his candidacy and to begin acting like someone who could actually be president of the United States. But the latest debacle with the Khan family, where Trump suggested that his sacrifices are somehow in the same realm as the sacrifices of Capt. Humayun Khan’s family, is beyond surreal. I don’t have the words to describe the indescribable. How could it be that Trump could think what he said was appropriate? What else goes on inside a mind that allows such thoughts? Trump’s reoccurring displays of ignorance and idiocy are putting him close to a tipping point or a point of no return with a lot of Republican voters. And with suburbanite, regular Republican voters in swing states, Trump may have already destroyed his chances.
Anyway, the Democratic National Convention was a net plus for Hillary Clinton. Given that she really doesn’t have much to say, and she cannot make a credible case that she is an agent of change, her plan is pretty simple: Stick to platitudes, hollow assertions, the usual Democratic promises of more money for this or that constituency — and then hope that Trump does his part by making himself unacceptable and keeping himself on the defensive. From Team Hillary’s perspective, so far so good. Obviously, the presidential debates in the fall will matter, but Hillary Clinton should not be underestimated on that front. She will be better than Trump on policy and will be able to hold her own in the face of whatever insults Trump throws at her. Plus, the referees in the media will be ready to declare her the winner.
As Haley Barbour always says, “Politics is about addition, not subtraction.” But I have no clue what the Trump campaign’s plan is to add voters to its column in the last almost 100 days before the election, and I can’t think of anything he has done since the end of the Republican National Convention that may have gained him any more votes. If it were anyone other than Trump, you would think the weak economy, the disillusionment with President Obama, Clinton’s character issues and the world becoming a more fragile, dangerous place would make Clinton easy to beat. It has taken extraordinary effort to be behind her in most of the polls. If Trump had stayed quiet and done nothing since the end of the convention, he would probably be better off.
By all accounts, the Trump campaign is not developing a ground game in key battleground states, there doesn’t appear to be a billionaire cavalry riding to the rescue with buckets of money, and there isn’t even a blanket ad campaign underway that may harden Clinton’s negatives or diminish Trump’s.
Overall, it’s getting harder to see what Trump’s plan is to win, and it’s getting harder to imagine that it would even be desirable for him to do so. Of course, in politics, you can never say never — and with Trump in particular, you can never really count him out.