Trump’s rage-tweeting is nothing new. But five months from the election, he holds not just the fate of his own campaign but those of every Republican in his hands. And his ability to see clearly and make good decisions, always questionable to begin with, may be deteriorating.
Meanwhile, his campaign has to spend a good deal of its time accommodating his mood swings and insecurity. The Daily Beast reports that the campaign recently spent $400,000 airing ads on Fox News in Washington, where they knew the president would see them — about as useless a campaign expenditure as one could imagine — to soothe Trump’s nerves and convince Republicans in Congress that he’s doing great.
That’s right: His own campaign has to buy TV ads to communicate with him and keep him from going off the deep end. Even if it’s a relatively small expenditure given the size of his campaign (the reelection effort and affiliated groups have already spent more than $200 million, to little apparent effect), it’s an indication of what his campaign staffers have to spend their time worrying about.
Meanwhile, we’re in a moment where Trump’s impulses put him on the wrong side of public opinion on the protests against police brutality sweeping the country. While polling shows broad, bipartisan support for the protests, Trump can only return again and again to the divisive rhetoric and disastrous stunts that he is convinced got him where he is. As The Post reports:
Some Republicans are expressing concern that the president, over the past two weeks, has further deepened the nation’s racial wounds and harmed the party’s electoral prospects.
Trump may be surprised to learn that for a change, deepening the nation’s racial wounds is not an effective political strategy. But either he can’t wrap his head around that reality, or he just can’t bring himself to do anything different.
Casting about for something to improve his standing, Trump has resorted to bringing back the band of geniuses who worked for him in 2016. So again: If you were a Republican in a close race, would you look at the White House and say, “Oh good, Corey Lewandowski is back. Everything’s going to be okay”?
If all you knew about Trump came from his public comments and the tweets in which he insists that the polls showing him trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden are all fake, you might believe that he is oblivious to the problem he faces. But that’s clearly not true. He may have built a career on confidence and bluster, but he is not unaware of the many failures he’s had along the way, even if he has faith that with enough persistence he can come out on top.
Right now, Trump surely knows he’s in trouble, but he doesn’t seem to have much in the way of answers. Instead, he’s doing what he has always done: trying to create conflict and division, sending dozens or even hundreds of tweets a day, hoping that schoolyard nicknames, juvenile insults and fearmongering will ensure his success.
So far it’s not working. Republicans afraid he’ll drag them down may hope that he can pull off another unexpected victory. But even they may now realize that his shocking 2016 win was mostly a spectacular coincidence of circumstances. Yes, he realized when other Republican politicians didn’t (or couldn’t) that there was an appetite within his party for naked bigotry and xenophobia. But it’s not as though Trump planned to have then-FBI Director James B. Comey cast suspicion on Hillary Clinton 11 days before the election.
Trump’s allies are trying to create a repeat of those events by launching investigations of Biden in the desperate hope that they can uncover something damaging. But at the moment, that too looks ineffectual. Which means they’ll have to rely on Trump to come up with some way to turn things around.
In the fall of 2008, when Democrats were being their typical neurotic selves and panicking over some momentary blip in the polls, a meme went around featuring a picture of Barack Obama delivering his convention speech. “Everyone chill the f--- out,” the caption read. “I got this.” Just seeing it made people feel better, as it reminded them of Obama’s political skills and strategic acumen. And it was right.
There are certainly some Republicans who believe the same of Trump — that his instincts are so insightful and his decision-making so visionary that despite the way things look right now, he’ll pull out another unexpected triumph. But they have less and less reason to think so.