Ed Rollins, a co-chairman of a super PAC backing Trump, shares: “I think one of Donald Trump’s singular difficulties with this campaign is that he sits and watches TV all day long and feels he has to react to every single thing that’s said against him. . . . “Sometimes great racehorses can’t stay on the track, they wander all over the place, they have to put blinder on them. We need to put a blinder on Donald Trump and his focus needs to be on Mrs. Clinton. And any other Republican, he just leaves alone.”
Umm, why would we want someone like this as president? At any rate the underlying message here is simple: The candidate is bizarrely unable to run a coherent campaign. (As if to make his point Trump spent a good deal of his rally in Florida on Wednesday rehashing his “blood from whatever” controversy with Megyn Kelly and his mocking of a New York Times reporter whose physical handicap Trump seemed to imitate.)
Newt Gingrich, among his most prominent apologists, told The Post: ““Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.” He went on, “He cannot win the presidency operating the way he is now. She can’t be bad enough to elect him if he’s determined to make this many mistakes.” It sounds precisely like the #NeverTrump forces. He didn’t stop there. “Let me just say flatly, I am totally for John McCain, who is a great war hero and a terrific human being, who has worked very hard for veterans. And I’m totally for Paul Ryan, who is the heart of the House Republican Party and probably the most problem-solving leader we’ve had in the Congress on the Republican side in the last 20 years,” Gingrich said on Fox Business Network. He added: “So I think somewhat what Trump has done is just very self-destructive.”
And these are his supporters, folks.
Meanwhile a parade of Republicans (e.g. Meg Whitman, New York Rep. Richard Hanna, former Jeb Bush adviser Sally Bradshaw, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie adviser Maria Comella, former RNC chairman Marc Racicot) have come out not only against Trump, but for Hillary Clinton.
A group seeking not only to sway big-name Republicans but create a grassroots network in swing states, R4C16.org, founded by two former Bush administration officials, John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, is catching fire. Trump’s recent behavior plays perfectly into their message: It’s a moral and patriotic imperative to stop Trump, who is seriously unfit. “This is about saving the Republican Party from a hijacker who has taken Speaker Ryan, Senator McConnell and other leaders hostage,” Stubbs told me yesterday. “The only thing standing in the way of Mr. Trump in the White House is Secretary Clinton. Our future Republican party leaders will remember who did the right thing in 2016 for the good of the party and the good of the country.” The founders have both been out of politics for at least 10 years, yet felt compelled to jump back in to defeat what they view as an existential threat to their own party and to the country. “I left DC more than a decade ago and it’s no accident I went to a place about as far away as you can get from the Beltway and still be in the continental US,”Reyes told me. “I was not looking for this, but Mr. Trump is too significant a threat to pretend it’s not happening or that it doesn’t matter because I live in California.” Considering how little Trump organization has out in the states, even a small organized pro-Hillary group aimed at ticket-splitters may have success.
One does sense that the bottom is about to drop out for Trump. Trump is plainly rattled this week, one can surmise partly because he’s now clearly behind Clinton in the polls, which he follows relentlessly. If his erratic behavior over the last fortnight pushes his polls lower still, he may, well, who knows what he’ll do. But “losers,” as he has said many times, are not attractive. If he is perceived as not only unsteady but also incapable of winning, even his core support may shrink.
Now, all of this concerns Republicans. The biggest debate may well become whether Republicans flee to Clinton (especially in swing states) or to the Libertarian ticket. Trump was supposed to wrap up the Republican vote in Cleveland, getting everyone marching in the same direction.
That never happened, so Trump is nowhere near the point at which he can begin trying to pull in independents or disgruntled Democrats. News cycle after news cycle tells independent voters and Democrats (including former supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders) that while Hillary may not be their cup of tea, Trump is downright dangerous. That’s a powerful motivator for them — and even some Republicans — to vote for Clinton.