A viral Vine from Donald Trump's Wilmington, N.C., speech has become the latest exhibit of the Republican nominee going too far. Clipped by reporter Chris Vannini, it appears to show one of Trump's supporters becoming amazed at his riff on how "the Second Amendment people" could stop an overreaching President Hillary Clinton. In a New York Times story, it was reported that the man went "slack-jawed" and turned to a companion "apparently in disbelief," a take in line with how many viewers saw the clip.

But in the seconds after the clip ended, the man could be seen on a longer video of the event laughing at what he'd heard. In the brief clip itself, his companion was laughing, not shocked. Critics of Trump, who have searched endlessly for a moment when Republicans might break with him, appeared to end the day with that moment closer but not at hand.

First, as reporters on the scene discovered, Trump's ramble about the Second Amendment left his supporters unsure of what he meant. The instant read of Democrats and many analysts — that Trump had called for Clinton to be assassinated — was not shared in the room.

AD
AD

Next, reporters searching for Republicans who might condemn the remark came up largely bereft. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose announcement that she could not support Trump began a small spree of interviews, said on MSNBC's "Meet the Press Daily" that Trump's "looseness" with words was a problem, but the comment was not a call for assassination.

“I’ve been very critical of Donald Trump, but I actually don’t think that is what he was saying," said Collins. "I think he was suggesting that the Second Amendment advocates across the country might be able to come together to pressure the Senate to reject her nominee should she become president. That is how I interpreted it."

Later, at a news conference after his landslide primary win, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan waved off two chances to condemn Trump, saying that he had been busy and not heard the full quote. "It sounds like a joke gone bad," said Ryan, suggesting that the comment was improper but sparing Trump the criticism he'd delivered after previous gaffes.

AD
AD

Just as importantly for Trump, the National Rifle Association — which endorsed him, as it has endorsed every Republican nominee for president since 2000 — used a series of tweets to provide absolution. Like Trump and most of his surrogates (the frequently off-script Katrina Pierson was an exception), the NRA suggested that Trump was referring to the lobbying power of gun-rights voters, not to their bullets.

In a later tweet, the NRA promoted a clip that Bloomberg Politics editor Mark Halperin had used to suggest a media double standard in how gun comments were covered. Taken in 2008, it showed Joe Biden, a gun owner, assuring Virginia voters that his running mate Barack Obama would have a problem if he tried to "fool with my Beretta."

As the day ended, there was no evidence of Republicans who were not previously critical of Trump making hay out of the remark. There was, instead, a stream of condemnations from Democrats, an interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity that Trump used to criticize coverage of the remark, and an email blast from the group Free the Delegates, which is beseeching the Republican National Committee to remove Trump as the party's nominee.

"Today was the final straw for many," the group argued in an email to members. "Our nominee, Donald J. Trump, suggested gun violence against his opponent."

AD
AD