One week is a lifetime in politics. Six weeks is practically an eternity. Many, many things have changed since May 4, the day the GOP primary season effectively ended. Donald Trump is not one of those things.
"Today, Trump is no closer to uniting the Republican Party or pivoting to the general election than he was six weeks ago," says Chris Cillizza. "And that is, at a minimum, a massive waste of a critical time period and, at worst, a mistake that could severely jeopardize his chances of winning the White House in November."
Candidates sometimes fall victim to the news cycle — events beyond their control that hijack their message and force them off-course. Donald Trump has mostly fallen victim to Donald Trump.
"Trump's time as the near-certain Republican nominee have been dominated by self-inflicted wounds — the most gaping of which is his suggestion that a federal judge overseeing a case involving Trump University was biased and should recuse himself because he is of Mexican heritage. Trump doubled down on that comment, then tripled down on it..."
To paraphrase the old song, if it were just Curiel, it would have been enough. But there's been more. So very much more. Trump has attacked prominent Republican officials (including New Mexico's Republican governor, Susana Martinez); repeatedly referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as "Pocahontas"; added The Washington Post to the list of news outlets barred from his press pool; and, in the wake of the Orlando attack, said that President Obama "continues to prioritize our enemy" over Americans.
"Know what else happened in the last six weeks? The State Department's inspector general released a report sharply critical of Hillary Clinton's decision to exclusively rely on a private email server for her electronic communication while serving as secretary of state. That is a terrible story for Clinton — and one that is a gift to Republicans working to portray her as an untrustworthy and unreliable person to lead the country.
"The IG report came out on May 25. Two days later, Trump went on a 11-minute rant about Curiel to a crowd in San Diego. Suddenly, the IG report was out of the news, replaced by questions about whether or not Trump was a racist....time and again, Trump has stolen the spotlight — and not in a good way — rather than turning it on Clinton. Rather than talk about her email problems, her inability to close out the challenge from Bernie Sanders, the misgiving some within her party have about nominating her or almost any other Clinton-focused headline, Trump has instead talked incessantly about himself."
You can see the impact in the new Washington Post/ABC poll out today — in a bitterly divided nation, one candidate seems to be uniting voters across multiple demographic lines...in their shared dislike of his campaign: according to the survey, 7 in 10 Americans polled now have a negative view of Donald Trump. The number that may keep the Trump team up at night: the mogul is currently under water — meaning, higher disapproval than approval numbers — among white working class voters. If he does not find a way to reverse this trend line, by Election Day his core base might be down to paid staff and members of his immediate family.
"Trump was handed a unique opportunity over these last six weeks. Clinton was still mired in a primary fight with Sanders. Trump was totally free of any intraparty challengers. He had six weeks in which his opponent was decidedly distracted. He won't get that chance again. The Democratic primary season ended Tuesday night. President Obama and Vice President Biden have endorsed Clinton. Sanders seems to be moving to do the same.
"Yes, modern campaigns last forever. But, they are almost always defined by a small group of critical moments that change the trajectory of races. The last six weeks was a major moment. Trump wasted it."
But, you may ask, what about Orlando? During the primary season, Donald Trump saw his poll numbers rise after terror attacks. Trump himself often points to that primary performance: How he polled. Who he beat. How he ran his campaign. His approach has a solid track record, he argues. Why mess with it?
The answer to both questions is something every reporter should probably tattoo somewhere on their person and refer to frequently, just as a point of reference: Past performance is no indicator of future results. And, as Chris has pointed out (many times), the difference between winning the nomination and winning a fall contest is like the difference between the NCAA and the NBA. Skill sets don't necessarily transfer; it's a very, very different game.
Which brings us back to Orlando. "Two surveys released in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando suggest that Donald Trump's response and proposal for preventing such incidents in the future are not ones with which Americans agree," reports Philip Bump. CBS News and Bloomberg asked voters about the idea of a Muslim immigration ban; about their thoughts on gun control; and about Trump's comments about President Obama's response to terrorism. In each instance, the majority didn't agree with Trump's positions.
In other words: despite that poll Tuesday that suggested "that Americans trusted Trump and Clinton to handle attacks like Orlando about evenly in the future, a more detailed look at the numbers suggests that his response after this attack may not help his position much at all."
(Some Republicans are criticizing Trump's Orlando response.)
Given those numbers, it's no surprise some leading Republicans aren't all that happy with Trump. Apparently he isn't too thrilled with them, either.
"Donald Trump said Wednesday that top Republicans need to toughen up and that he may have to lead the GOP 'alone,' heightening tensions with his party’s leaders at a time when they have stepped up their criticism of his controversial statements," reported Sean Sullivan, Jose DelReal and Abby Phillip. At an afternoon rally in Atlanta, he "let loose a scathing attack of his fellow Republicans. He did not name anyone in particular.
"'You know the Republicans, honestly folks, our leaders, our leaders have to get tougher,' he said. 'This is too tough to do it alone, but you know what? I think I’m going to be forced to. I think I’m going to be forced to. Our leaders have to get a lot tougher. ...And be quiet. Just please be quiet. Don’t talk. Please be quiet. Just be quiet to the leaders because they have to get tougher, they have to get sharper, they have to get smarter.'
"The remarks came a day after many congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, denounced his response to the deadly mass shooting in Orlando. Ryan took issue with Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. And many shook their heads at his suggestion that President Obama may be sympathetic to terrorists.
"...Trump suggested more than once Wednesday that he might be on his own — a posture that threatens to further erode his fragile relationship with the Republican establishment. 'We have to have our Republicans either stick together or let me just do it by myself,' he said. 'I’ll do very well. I’m going to do very well. OK? I’m going to do very well. A lot of people thought I should do that anyway, but I’ll just do it very nicely by myself.'" Some Republicans may be tempted to let him try.
HERE COMES THE GENERAL: 1:20 p.m. ET: Fox, CNN and MSNBC are carrying Donald Trump's Atlanta rally live.
1:30 p.m. ET (as Trump continues speaking): Something...different.
—Today, Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton wasn't tough enough on countries that discriminate against women and gay people.
"Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community. Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?" he said in Atlanta. "Ask the gays, 'Who’s your friend?'"
Trump on Saudi Arabia, the Clintons, women and "the gays" https://t.co/8OzX9IJbNg— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 15, 2016
That was the line that launched a thousand gifs. Like this one:
Trump: "Ask the gays!"— James West (@jameswest2010) June 15, 2016
The gays: pic.twitter.com/CycMfnMAl2
And this one:
TRUMP: "Ask the gays!"— MA•LAR•KEY (@oskrNYC) June 15, 2016
and (#WayBack Wednesday alert!): this.
TRUMP: "Ask the gays!"— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) June 15, 2016
THE GAYS: pic.twitter.com/TKmDtWpxvq
(You get the picture)
—Also meme-ing today: the Trumpish Pokemon debate. (We have no opinion on this. But many people on the Internet seem to.)
Someone in Twitch chat said Yungoos looks like Donald Trump but he LITERALLY DOES. pic.twitter.com/dPuStqv8Yz— IWT | Shanikkyu (@shannondorf_) June 14, 2016
—Speaking of #WayBackWednesday! Herman Cain's back (this time, ahead of Trump's Atlanta rally): "This sounds like a shucky-ducky kind of crowd on a shucky-ducky kind of day, here to support an awww-shucky ducky kind of candidate." (On a related note, today Trump called the Russian nuclear arsenal "tippy-top." We have not yet encountered a "neato burrito" on the trail, but the day's not over yet, so: stay tuned.)
Someone who doesn't think Trump is all that shucky-ducky: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who made it official today — he's not backing his party's presumptive nominee. We won't be able to say for sure what Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn thinks from this point on, since he told Politico he would no longer talk about Trump until after Election Day.
—Former Scott Walker campaign manager and Trump political director Rick Wiley, dismissed from the Trump campaign last month, will now help run the RNC's field program. Here's one stat to illustrate the challenge that team faces: Democrats reportedly have more people on the ground in the state of Ohio alone than Trump has in the entire country.
—The Clinton team is flooding the airwaves too, with an initial general election buy targeting swing states: "Clinton has purchased advertising time on television stations in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada, according to a Democrat tracking ad buys and public records in several of those states." No word yet on when, or if, Trump will be able to respond in kind.
—This might or might not be the DNC's (dated/pre-Iowa) Trump oppo file, which we learned this week had been accessed by Russian hackers. We would just observe that it is definitely material that, were it chopped up into dozens of press releases and web videos as per usual, people might not view in full unless they were people whose paycheck depended on the viewing of such material, such as campaign reporters and political operatives. But with a sexy Gawker link, it managed to pull in more than 150,000 views and rising within the first three hours this afternoon.
Trump says DNC hack is a false flag pic.twitter.com/Zv1uz77dbO— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) June 15, 2016
—Trump could find himself in line with public opinion on one post-Orlando issue (more details to come...)
I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2016
—Marco Rubio has told reporters "10,000 times" (his count) that he planned to be a private citizen next year, not run for re-election. Apparently we needed to ask 10,001 times: he said today he's reconsidering a 2016 Senate bid. Ted Cruz is looking to the future too.
—The Sanders revolution got its first post-presidential campaign test in Nevada voting yesterday. Short version: The Berniecrats went bust.
YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: Back inside the Beltway tonight, Congress and the media battled it out. (On the diamond.) A bipartisan team of congressional women took on the press corps' Bad News Babes to benefit breast cancer awareness efforts. Here's more on the annual showdown, and the cause it benefits.
(We probably don't have th say this, but: The media won this one, because Paul Ryan's just having that sort of spring.)