But there are basic blocking and tackling elements of any campaign that are less complex — and absolutely necessary to do if you want to win. The most basic of all? If your opponent is having a bad day or a bad week, let them have it. Just get out of the way.
Trump seemed to grasp that early in the day on Wednesday when he tweeted this:
The daily story in the presidential race, as of Wednesday afternoon, was this: "Clinton tries to change subject on tough email report; Trump rakes in cash." Pretty good for the Republican nominee!
Then Trump went to Cincinnati for a rally with vice-presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. And it all fell apart.
As the New York Times reported, Trump spent the first 20 or so minutes of his speech reading from prepared notes — hitting Clinton on her email practices and raising questions about her honesty and trustworthiness.
Then something snapped. He threw away the notes and lit into the media — and society more generally — over two recent controversies: (1) his campaign tweeting out and then removing an image that looked suspiciously like the Star of David, and (2) his comments about how late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was "so good" when it came to dealing with terrorists.
"I said: 'You shouldn't have taken it down.' You know, they took the star down," Trump said to a crowd of several thousand at a rally on Wednesday night. "I said: 'Too bad. You should have left it up.' I would have rather defended it — just leave it up and say: No, that's not a Star of David. That's just a star."
But, he wasn't done! Again, Johnson:
"I wake up, I turn on the television: 'Donald Trump loves Saddam Hussein. He loves Saddam Hussein,'" Trump said, dramatically raising his voice in a caricature of a television news anchor. "That's not what I said. So, that's the narrative."
But, he still wasn't done! Once the event in Cincinnati was over, Trump took to Twitter to drive home his point about being unfairly maligned on the alleged Star of David tweet.
It's hard to explain how bad that turnaround is for Trump. And how avoidable it all was. What's even more remarkable is that Trump seemed to have the blueprint — read the speech, blast Hillary, get out of the way — for a good day. Instead, he voluntarily dipped into two issues — debating whether he was anti-Semitic and defending his praise for a brutal dictator — that are straight losers, politically speaking.
Trump spent the next two weeks, at least, trying to get out from under the Curiel controversy — a timeline extended by his unwillingness to simply apologize and move on. (Sound familiar?) Eventually, he said he had been misunderstood.
Malpractice is a harsh word. But there's no other word for taking a good day and turning it not only into a bad day but potentially a bad week or a bad month. Winning campaigns play up their strengths and downplay their flaws. Trump seems committed to doing just the opposite.
This isn't the campaign's fault. The campaign — from manager Paul Manafort on down — is clearly telling Trump the right things to do to win days. He just isn't willing to do them. The blame is his. Pure and simple.