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.”
A different route, eh? Maybe that’s one of those things Trump just says, like the trade deficit with China is $500 billion a year, or he’s going to prevent Muslims from entering the United States. Or maybe it refers to something he actually plans to do, a route he has mapped out in his mind. If Trump meant anything by that different route, what did he mean?
Perhaps he intends to take a different fundraising route after his disastrous May. Trump finds his support from the Republican Party less robust than he expected, so he may renege on his promise not to self-fund his campaign during the general election. This is the gentlest of the “different route” interpretations.
Less gentle is the possibility that, given the cold reception he’s gotten from elected Republicans, he make take a route different from being nice to them. For the last month or so, he’s tried to mend fences with Paul Ryan and the other members of his party who didn’t reach office by saying crazy stuff. But if they’re not going to meet him halfway, Trump is going to double down on brashness, on deviation from conservative orthodoxy, on defying everyone’s sense of how a major-party candidate should act.
That would be a more fun interpretation, but perhaps the most thrilling is that Trump is threatening to take a different route from running as a Republican—or even from running for president at all. He hasn’t accepted the nomination yet. The convention is still a month away. If Trump’s frustrations with Republicans run deep enough—or if he never thought he would get this far in the first place, and now he’s looking for an out—he could run as an independent.
That’s a fun possibility to think about, but it seems farfetched. Granted that it would be a totally boss move to win the Republican nomination, dash the careers of a half dozen rising stars/dynastic heirs, and then walk away from the GOP. But it would be tantamount to withdrawing.
All indications are that Trump’s state-by-state infrastructure is weaker than any major-party candidate’s in memory. He’ll have a hard time running with the GOP behind him, much less as an independent hustling just to get on the ballot. Perhaps Trump would rather be Ross Perot, with all the publicity of a serious candidate and none of the obligations, but at this point it’s fuck or walk. His bid is in trouble even with the Republican nomination, but he has little hope without it.
I would say “no hope,” but he’s running against Hillary Clinton. Harnessing their standard-bearer’s intuitive sense of what ordinary Americans want to hear, Hillary supporters mocked Trump’s May fundraising with the hashtag #TrumpSoPoor. Is this the best look for a candidate whose connections to Wall Street turned her coronation into a bitter primary fight? As a person who will hold his nose and vote for Clinton in November, despite her position at the front of an advancing American oligarchy, such sloganeering risks giving me a bruise.
If anyone can lose to Donald Trump, it’s Hillary Clinton. But I’m not sure that anyone can. For the Republican candidate, yesterday looked like the implosion we all predicted. Lo and behold, and it has made the Democratic candidate as smug and complacent as we worried she might be.