Donald Trump seems crankier than usual. The guy's not known for his sunny disposition, mind you — his most common form of interaction is to beat the crap out of someone or something and then say, "but I like the guy!" — but even by Trump standards, the past few days have been unusual.
Maybe it started with the blowback over Trump's failure to call out a guy who called President Obama a Muslim during an event in New Hampshire. That happened on Thursday. On Friday, Trump skipped a scheduled event, citing a "significant business transaction." New York magazine quotes a source who says that there probably wasn't any such transaction: "He is just not doing well right now," the source said, "and was afraid of going down there and making another mistake."
He is, in fact, doing pretty well right now — just not as well as he had been. In a CNN/ORC poll released over the weekend, Trump's support fell significantly from CNN's last poll, conducted right before the second Republican debate.
You can see the downturn in the Real Clear Politics polling average. Trump's support dipped a bit, thanks to that CNN poll — but so did his lead. At the end of August, he was up by almost 15 points. Now that has dropped to 10, and is trending the wrong way.
As is his way, Trump took to Twitter to register his annoyance.
First, on Sunday, he lashed out at Carly Fiorina, who saw the biggest jump in the CNN poll released that day.
Then, on Monday morning, he got mad at the "Today" show for referring to CNN's poll instead of one conducted by NBC in concert with SurveyMonkey.
Those willing to join in his critique earned a much-sought-after retweet.
Trump also repeatedly pushed another poll by John Zogby that came out on Monday. By Monday night, though, he had a new target: Fox News. Fox's Bill O'Reilly, it seems, also had the temerity to cite CNN's new poll and then had Trump critics weigh in.
Between 8 p.m. and Tuesday morning, Trump had tweeted or retweeted 20 criticisms of Fox News — and also one woman bemoaning the "lynching" of Trump.
Nor was Trump done. On Tuesday, his campaign released a cease-and-desist letter to the Club For Growth, the first conservative organization to directly hit Trump on policy issues. Accusing the group's president of libel, Trump's lawyer threatened "that we will commence a multi-million dollar lawsuit against you personally and your organization."
That is an unusual level of fury, even by Trump standards. What's changed? First and foremost, that CNN poll reversed the idea that Trump continues to build on his lead. Second, he had someone to blame for that change: the Club For Growth. Trump hasn't faced much direct criticism or many real roadblocks over the course of the campaign. Now he does. What's more, it seems that the public fascination with his campaign is also fading, potentially making it harder for Trump to rely on free media to prop up his presidential bid.
Maybe this is a hiccup. I am not saying that Trump is over, because I know better than that by now. But this is pretty much exactly what we might expect to see at the beginning of the end of the Donald Trump phenomenon: a slow retreat of support matched by a furious refusal to accept it. It is what kids today (or, really, a year or two ago) would call a "bad look."
More than half of all Republicans said that Trump has the temperament to be president in the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll. Tweeting at Fox 20 times because he dislikes their analysis doesn't really bolster that claim.