According to its FEC filing, the Trump campaign raised $3.1 million dollars in May, compared to $27 million donors gave to Hillary Clinton. That’s a startling gap, especially considering Trump clinched the nomination on May 3. Possibly in response to this dismal performance or maybe because of everything else he ever did, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski got fired yesterday. It’s fun when Trump does that on television, but political people tend to interpret it as a sign of weakness. It was such a tough day that the pathologically sanguine candidate struck a glum note. This morning, he called in to Fox and Friends and complained that he wasn’t getting enough support from Republicans. “It would be nice to have full support from people that are in office, full verbal support,” he said. “With all of that being said, I may go a different route if things don’t happen.”
We all know the expression “damning with faint praise;” our parents explained it after we won Most Improved in little league. Why is there no expression for the opposite behavior? Someone ought to coin a phrase for condemning as you endorse—you know, like Republicans keep doing with Donald Trump. Here’s Paul Ryan addressing the Republican nominee’s complaint that the judge in his fraud lawsuit is Mexican:
I disavow these comments — I regret those comments that he made. Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable. But do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.
This is the strictest use of “disavow” ever. The speaker does say that what Trump did is “absolutely unacceptable,” before accepting, in the next sentence, that he is the only alternative to Clinton. Maybe he meant to say “I disregard these comments.” It’s not important. The important thing is that once again, cynicism affords us the opportunity to say “I told you so.”
You knew all the little pink men in suits would find reasons to endorse Trump, didn’t you? Their beginning to see his contradiction of their deeply held beliefs in a new light, now that he’s the only Republican in the race. Although they remain committed to conservative principals when it’s time to cut taxes and welfare, their allegiance is to the team. It’s too bad the new captain is a racist megalomaniac, but we still want to win the game, right guys? That’s how Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, for Pete’s sake, has to see it:
I am a Republican, but what I care more about is our nation, and where we’re going as a nation. And so again, I hope this isn’t the pattern that is going to occur between now and November. But what I see is, okay, you have got a binary choice.
That’s rich. Corker hopes Trump doesn’t say any more racist stuff, but even if he does, he still won’t be Hillary Clinton. I guess it’s good he’s being honest. But I worry such thinking could lure the Republican Party into damaging its brand more than it has to during this election cycle.
Senator Coker raises a useful question: Is there some theoretical maximum amount of bullshit the Republican Party will tolerate from its nominee? If Trump, for example, broke into the Smithsonian and added “no fat chicks” to the Declaration of Independence, would Ryan pull his endorsement? If the answer is no, no such maximum exists, I don’t know what to tell you. But if there is a limit to what Republicans will tolerate from Trump, they should set it with an eye toward expected value.
Let’s say Nate Silver is right, and Trump has a one-in-three chance of winning the election. It’s twice as likely he will lose. Whenever Trump says some crazy/evil thing, the party has to push more of its reputation into the pot or fold and withdraw its endorsement. As the election continues, it will cost the Republican brand more and more. It will also hurt the personal brands of individual party members. Probably, there will come a point of inflection, when the likelihood of his winning looks slim enough that these Republicans fold en masse.
Either that or no member of the GOP will ever admit that Trump can’t win, because that’s like voting for Hillary Clinton. In 2012, Karl Rove couldn’t even do it after the results were in. Maybe they’ll all go down with the ship. But there’s still time for them to think about it. Republicans should consider what Trump might say between now and when he loses this election, and what else they could lose by agreeing with him.
Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton is guaranteed to become president. It’s obvious Trump can’t win. He’s utterly unqualified. His negatives are too high. Everyone of sense can see he is doomed in the general, just as we all knew his candidacy was going nowhere in the primaries. Okay, so he won almost all the primaries, but that was a fluke. This time, there’s no way. Democrats will keep the White House in 2016, because all of Trump’s signature issues appeal to fundamentally limited subsets of voters. He’s not selling anything the majority of Americans can agree on. On a completely unrelated note, the Intercept has reported that Trump called Hillary “trigger happy” at a rally in Lynden, Washington, where he warned that she would embroil the United States in another land war in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Hillary is courting neoconservatives put off by Trump’s isolationism. Here’s Republican strategist Steve Schmidt:
Donald Trump will be running to the left as we understand it against Hillary Clinton on national security issues. And the candidate in the race most like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a foreign policy perspective is in fact Hillary Clinton, not the Republican nominee.
Finally, the Democrats have an opportunity to position themselves as the party of hawks—and at a moment when war is so popular!
Back in 2010, newly-minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Heritage Foundation, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” It was a blunt statement of Republican principle. Lower taxes and deregulation are well and good, but the central plank in the modern GOP platform is winning. Maybe it started when John McCain mortgaged his reputation for Sarah Palin. Maybe it began with the election of Barack Obama and the party’s redefinition of itself as his negative image. But it ends like this. Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination for president on the strength of saying whatever works. And between now and November, most of the people who called him an unqualified catastrophe—party leaders, conservative commentators, other Republican politicians—will get behind him.