Less that two hours after telling his massive Twitter following that “the shackles have been taken off me,” Donald Trump released a new TV commercial in which Hillary Clinton is shown stumbling at a memorial service for 9/11 victims.
You need to watch the ad before you read another word:
Clinton is shown coughing, needing assistance up steps and then, finally, having to be pulled into her security van after nearly fainting at the service last month in New York City. “Hillary Clinton doesn't have the fortitude, strength or stamina to lead in our world," says the ad's narrator over the Clinton fainting footage. “She failed as secretary of state. Don't let her fail us again."
It is as blatant an attempt to suggest to voters that a candidate is not well enough for office as I have ever witnessed. While the ad has a patina of policy attached to it — and therefore can be defended by Trumpworld as suggesting she isn't tough enough to stand up to world leaders — what's really going on here is far clearer: Clinton is sick, the ad suggests, and she just can't do the job.
This is Trump as his Trumpiest, playing to a base of supporters who have been wishing and hoping for this sort of campaign since the moment he got into the race. Trump's supporter base will absolutely LOVE this commercial. The problem is that there aren't nearly enough people in Trump's base to win him the election.
What Trump appears to be doing is giving in to those within his campaign who have urged an all-out civil war on political correctness in all its forms. Political correctness dictates that you can't run ads of your opponents stumbling and coughing to insinuate an unrevealed health problem. But those PC cops have been wrong about Trump all along! They have no clue how the average person thinks! Screw 'em!
The “average person" in the paragraph above is a Trump supporter and/or Clinton hater. The decision to run an ad like this one suggests that Trump has been convinced that there are enough people in the country who fit into that category that elevating whispers about secret health issues into a campaign commercial makes for a sound strategy.
It's also possible — and this is what should scare the hell out of Republicans — that Trump simply doesn't care about winning anymore and wants to use the final four weeks of the campaign to exact a measure of revenge against all the people who he believes have wronged him. Or that Trump is positioning himself as the leader of a new sort of Republican Party (or head of a new conservative media outlet) that rejects the leaders of the current GOP.
None of those three scenarios is good for Republicans hoping to weather the Trump storm on Nov. 8. If you are, say, Sen. Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, the last thing you want to have to talk about is an ad like this one from Trump. Or Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. Or Richard Burr in North Carolina. You get the idea.
Trump is headed down a road where possible destruction of his own party at the ballot box this fall awaits. And he's doing it with a smile on his face.