Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump memorably wondered aloud last month, “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

He was talking about biographical claims made by rival Ben Carson, but the New Hampshire Union-Leader turned the question on Trump in a front-page editorial on Monday and offered a pointed answer: not nearly stupid enough to vote for you.

Union-Leader publisher Joseph W. McQuaid used the occasion of Trump’s latest visit to the Granite State (he’ll be in Nashua on Monday) to forecast the billionaire’s ultimate defeat and rip him for controversial remarks that have included insulting fellow GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s face, saying that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is “not a war hero” and mocking a New York Times reporter who has a physical disability.

Donald Trump is due in New Hampshire this evening. He will attract a large crowd. The crowds, the media coverage, and the polls have led him and some pundits to believe that he will win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
That is an insult to the intelligence of Republican voters. Beginning right here in New Hampshire on Feb. 9, a great majority of them will disabuse him of that notion.

The editorial also calls Trump a "crude blowhard" and compares him to the character Biff from "Back to the Future." Trump responded later Monday in an interview with WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H., by calling McQuaid a "real lowlife" with a personal vendetta. He suggested the editorial was McQuaid's revenge for Trump's decision to skip an August candidates forum that was co-sponsored by the Union-Leader.

The editorial by the largest paper in the nation’s first primary state (after caucuses in Iowa on Feb. 1) reads as much like a plea as a prediction — as if to say, "People of New Hampshire, please prove that you’re smarter than this." The real estate magnate has led in New Hampshire since August and is currently up by nearly 14 points, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

The Union-Leader would prefer that voters back New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom the paper endorsed last month (triggering a strange ed board fight with the Newark Star-Ledger), though McQuaid did not mention Christie in Monday’s editorial.

Embedded in the piece is a subtle attempt to shift Republican voters’ focus from the candidate they like best — which, right now, appears to be Trump — to the candidate who has the best chance to win a general election. The editorial is ostensibly about Trump, but the most important paragraph is about Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton and the media.

Much of the news media are lavishly covering Trump, not just because he’s good for ratings, but because he’s good for Hillary Clinton. They very much want Trump to be the Republican nominee so that Ms. Hillary can move back into the White House.

Whether or not you buy into this conspiracy theory by the Union-Leader’s right-leaning editorial board (I, for one, do not), the implication is clear: Trump supporters need to snap out of it and realize that their candidate’s nomination would hand a certain victory to Clinton. If they want to avoid that apocalyptic outcome, they ought to wise up and start backing someone more electable.

Putting this on the front page is clearly intended for emphasis; the New York Times recently devoted its first front-page editorial in nearly a century to passing new gun-control legislation in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks. This one isn't likely to have the same oomph, though, given that the Union-Leader's ed board is much more willing to go outside the box.

It's a good argument by McQuaid, but one that Republican voters aren’t listening to yet. As our Chris Cillizza noted this month, electability ranks low on their list of priorities, behind such qualities as strong leadership, honesty, caring about “people like me” and having the right experience. What's more, Trump leads on who people think is the most electable.

The Union-Leader seems confident that GOP voters will come around. It's the very definition of wishful thinking — thinking that, like a lot of the previous thinking about Trump's campaign, could wind up forcing the Union-Leader to eat some crow.