There is little sign that Donald Trump is attending successfully to his multifaceted campaign problems. To the contrary, there is ample evidence his operation is continuing its political death spiral:
1. A key court ruling in Virginia made clear state laws cannot legally bind delegates. In other words, if delegates choose to jump ship, no one is going to fine or jail them. They are masters of their rules at the convention. The first task is gaining 28 delegates on the rules committee to insert a conscience clause allowing delegates to vote as they please. Kendal Unruh, founder of Free the Delegates and a delegate from Colorado, tells Right Turn, “I am more than confident I have the 28. Especially with the VA ruling that reaffirmed an individual’s right to free association. That was a shot of Red Bull in our veins.” She adds, “The delegates who were fearful of state prosecution for voting their God given right to conscience can now rest assured they won’t be having to wear orange.” Moreover, she says, “We have contacted over half of the delegates on the floor and 70% support unbinding.”
Other Republicans agree on the ruling’s importance. “This decision eliminates one big hurdle against delegates who want to exercise their rights of conscience,” says Quin Hillyer, a veteran conservative journalist and activist. “It is now clear that they can do so without any risk of civil or criminal liabilities from their home states. Now it’s just a matter of delegates uniting to stop the Republican Party from using thuggish tactics to force a vote a delegate has no desire to make.”
2. Trump’s organization is threadbare and amateurish. The Associated Press reports, “With early voting beginning in less than three months in some states, the review reveals that the national GOP has delivered only a fraction of the ground forces detailed in discussions with state leaders earlier in the year. And that is leaving anxious local officials waiting for reinforcements to keep pace with Democrat Hillary Clinton in the states that matter most in 2016.” Despite chairman Reince Priebus’s puffery about his organization, it has not leveled the playing field with Hillary Clinton’s camp. (“The gulf between what state leaders thought they could count on and what they’ve actually got comes as RNC’s ground game is asked to do more than ever before. Presumptive nominee Donald Trump is relying on the party to do most of the nuts-and-bolts work of finding and persuading voters in the nation’s most competitive battlegrounds.”) It is one more reminder of Priebus’s foolishness in circling the wagons around a candidate with neither the experience nor the know-how to run a national, general-election campaign.
3. The email scandal has not moved the needle. If Trump was counting on James Comey to unravel Clinton’s candidacy, he was in some other political universe. A Morning Consult poll shows the candidates are statistically tied on whether they can be trusted with the country’s security secrets. (“Less than half of voters said they would trust Donald Trump (44 percent) or Hillary Clinton (42 percent) with classified information.”) No matter how bad Clinton gets, Trump is uniquely unable to capitalize.
4. So long as the focus is on serious problems, he loses. Faced with a country convulsed by shootings, he struggled to sound presidential after two African American men and five police officers were killed in three separate locales. Choosing restraint over a showing of confident leadership avoided yet another campaign blunder, but at the price of making Trump seem small and inadequate to the moment. Given his inflammatory language concerning women, Mexican immigrants, an American-born judge of Mexican heritage, the disabled and Muslims, few would characterize him as unifying. His speech in Virginia on Monday on veterans’ affairs was weirdly off topic, while his posturing as the “law and order” candidate brought guffaws from those who’ve noted his abject ignorance about the Constitution and basic civics (e.g., he insisted earlier in the race that his sister, a judge, “signed” bills).
5. His relations with Republicans are no better. Recently he got into verbal spats with Republican senators. He refused to apologize for his campaign’s anti-Semitic imagery. He praised Saddam Hussein. From the vantage point of many Republicans, he has learned virtually nothing despite repeated promises to get his act together. There is no “better” Trump. He’s as good as he will ever get, which means he is the most inept candidate either party has nominated since George McGovern in 1972.
In other words, Trump is as vulnerable as ever — maybe more so — to a delegate revolt. Eric O’Keefe, who leads the Delegates Unbound movement, sees “good momentum” for the anti-Trump effort. “A month ago we were often being told ‘Trump is the only one who can beat HRC,” he tells Right Turn. “Not hearing that as much. Some still make the claim.” He notes that dumping Trump is the motivation “for those who see Trump as a disgrace,” but delegates mostly concerned with beating Clinton “need to believe there’s a better way than Trump.”
All it may take, then, to incinerate Trump’s candidacy is a principled Republican or two to step forward offering themselves as candidates in the event the delegates dump him.