Here's the thing: One controversy like this can be written off as willful misinterpretation by your political opponents or as a simple misunderstanding. But Trump's campaign is littered with these "misunderstandings." At some point, it's not a glitch; it's a feature.
Consider this (very partial) list:
- When Trump said Megyn Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever" to describe why he thought the Fox News anchor was treating him unfairly, he, of course, meant her nose. Everyone — and I do mean everyone — who interpreted that comment as a reference to the idea that Kelly might have been menstruating was way off. Misunderstanding! Sad!
- Trump's comment that Mexico was sending its "rapists" to the United States was not meant to suggest that everyone coming from Mexico was a criminal. It was that the Mexican government was sending some of their bad seeds north to get them out of the country. Misunderstanding! Sad!
- "Look at that face" Trump was quoted saying when he was talking about onetime presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. That wasn't about her looks — how dare you! — it was about her "persona." Misunderstanding! Sad!
- Talking about reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a condition called arthrogryposis, which limits flexibility in his arms, Trump wildly gesticulated and flailed his own arms. “Now, the poor guy — you've got to see this guy," Trump told the crowd. "Ah, I don't know what I said! I don't remember!" Trump had never met Kovaleski (he had) and wasn't mocking the reporter's disability; he was just flapping his arms for dramatic purposes. Misunderstanding! Sad!
- Asked to categorically deny the support of KKK member David Duke, Trump demurred — insisting that he doesn't know enough about it to condemn anyone. That is, of course, Trump's cautiousness and wanting more information, not an attempt to hat-tip at a hate group. Misunderstanding! Sad!
You get the idea. If your kid gets into trouble at school one time, and he tells you he wasn't doing anything and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe you let it pass. If he gets in trouble 15 times, it's harder to buy the "wrong place, wrong time" argument.
So it is with Trump. A history of his campaign is a history of his saying, or tweeting, controversial things, followed by an outcry, followed by his insisting that the people who are jumping to these terrible conclusions are wrong and misguided and want only to hurt him and his campaign. It's either a perfect or a perfectly vicious circle.
That logic has and will continue to work wonders with Trump's most ardent supporters. They love his willingness to poke the eye of the politically correct world and laugh about it.
But that is not enough people for Trump to get elected president. And it's clear that all of these "misunderstandings" are taking their toll on his overall image. A Gallup survey released late last week showed that Trump has the worst favorable ratings of any major-party presidential nominee in seven decades; just 16 percent of people said they were highly favorable of him, while 42 percent described themselves as highly unfavorable.
It seems as though a majority of the country seems to understand what Trump is doing with all of these "misunderstandings" — and they don't like it.