It was an event that was perhaps a long time coming. It also couldn't have come at a worse time.
It happened early enough that these Republicans are holding on to hope that he could somehow be replaced on the ballot — and were comfortable calling for him to step aside — but very likely too late for it to actually happen.
It also happened just as the undecided and casual voters who will decide this race are really tuning in, and it promises to dominate whatever news comes out of Sunday night's debate — especially with Trump now looking like he'll go hard after Hillary Clinton's alleged role in enabling Bill Clinton's indiscretions.
Oh, and it also happened to come as we learn more about those mysterious Hillary Clinton Wall Street speeches — information that would otherwise likely be a dominant story in the presidential election and could have been a very unhelpful focal point for the Clinton campaign on Sunday night.
First, the Trump campaign drama: While Republicans from all parts of the party have joined the call for Trump to step aside for another candidate — most say let vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence should run instead — it's very likely in vain.
As The Fix's Philip Bump wrote late Friday and The Post's Matea Gold detailed further on Saturday, Trump would basically have to agree to drop out — an idea he has flatly rejected — and then Republicans would have to navigate a sea of very complex procedures for replacing him on the ballot and hope plenty of legal decisions go their way.
Given there's still a month left, it's not difficult to understand why GOP lawmakers might hope a Hail Mary could work, but it's much harder to see how it would actually work.
From Gold's piece:
Many states have already printed their ballots, and 400,000 early and absentee votes have already been cast, according to a tally by the United States Elections Project. The party would have to persuade states to put the new nominee on the ballot by appealing to secretaries of state and seeking emergency injunctions through the courts — no easy lift at this late date.“It seems very unlikely in most places that a court would order this, not only because ballots have been printed, but ballots have gone out to overseas and military voters,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor and election law expert at the University of California at Irvine. “While I think courts often will bend deadlines a little before there has actually been voting, now we’re in a situation where that moment has passed.”Not to mention that there would be fierce legal pushback from Democrats.
And then there is tonight's debate. Trump was already very much on his heels thanks to a shoddy performance in the first debate two weeks ago — along with plenty of missteps since then. Polls were already trending against him, and then came probably the worst moment of his entire campaign.
Given all of that, there is very little hope for Trump to right the ship in Sunday's debate, and there's only one more debate after that for him to get it done. We'll see what happens Sunday night, but all indications are that Trump is desperate and ready to lash out.
Lastly, there's the Clinton news that will probably be a subject of Sunday's debate but won't be nearly as big a focus thanks to Trump's problems.
And what a subject it could have been. Check out these brutal first few paragraphs from the Associated Press's Lisa Lerer:
Hillary Clinton took nearly every precaution to ensure voters would never know what she told investment bankers, lobbyists and corporate executives in dozens of closed-door paid speeches before running for president.Turns out, the Democratic presidential nominee had good reason to do so.The private comments strike a tone starkly at odds with the fiery message she's pushed throughout her campaign, particularly during the hard-fought Democratic primary. Some of her remarks give fresh fuel to liberals' worst fears about Clinton, namely that she is a political moderate, happy to cut backroom deals with corporate interests and curry favor with Wall Street for campaign dollars.
Those are also attacks that Trump would be happy to make against Clinton, as it happens, given his populist campaign. And separate from the Wall Street/insider attacks, the emails — which the Clinton campaign has not authenticated — also lend credence to the argument that Clinton is a politician who says whatever is beneficial to her at that given moment, depending upon her audience, and doesn't actually have political convictions.
In what aides calculated were the most damaging passages, she reflects on the necessity of “unsavory” political dealing, telling real estate investors that "you need both a public and private position.” To investment bankers from Goldman Sachs and BlackRock, Clinton admits that she's "kind of far removed” from the middle-class upbringing that she frequently touts on the campaign trail. She tells Xerox CEO Ursula Burns that both political parties should be "sensible, moderate, pragmatic.”And in speeches to some of the country's biggest banks, she highlighted her long ties to Wall Street, bantering with top executives and saying that she views the financial industry as a partner in government regulation.
Given Clinton's own problems with voters' perceptions of her honesty, this is a tantalizing story line for the Trump campaign to press on. But it will likely be a footnote on Sunday, thanks to Trump himself and the seriously bad timing of this whole mess.