Donald Trump ran an absolutely brilliant primary campaign. When he first declared his candidacy for president in June, 2015, most people had strong doubts that he was serious. The so-called conventional wisdom, of professional politicians, the media and the public was that it was merely a publicity stunt, a passing fancy, a means to feed his insatiable ego. He would soon tire of campaigning and move on to something else. After all, they said, he was an entrepreneur, a deal-maker, not a professional politician.
Well, Trump fooled us all. He began as one of 13 GOP candidates and just blew the field away. Republican voters were drawn to his outspoken, blunt style. In addition, he struck a nerve by seizing onto the key issues that people most cared about, border security, terrorism and the economy. In addition, he portrayed himself as a Washington outsider, beholden to no one. His pointed, sometimes personal, criticisms of the administration and his GOP rivals were very effective. His support grew steadily, regardless of his sometimes outlandish comments and actions both in the debates and on the campaign trail. It also helped greatly that one by one each of the other candidates displayed fatal flaws and weaknesses that turned off the voters. Despite growing opposition among the professional politicians to stop him at all costs he won the nomination handily.
Then, the general election campaign began, and Trump stumbled. He failed to adjust his tactics. What had worked in the primaries did not in the general. Despite the fact that according to the polls over 75% of the voters believe the country is going in the wrong direction, and he is running against an extremely unpopular candidate, he is behind in the polls and running out of time.
In my opinion, his candidacy has been gravely wounded primarily by:
- His mouth. When attacked, he cannot resist firing back. From the beginning, the Dems have unleashed vicious personal attacks against him, focusing on his supposed “unsuitability” to be president. Many, if not most of them, have been exaggerated, if not false. Such is the nature of political campaigns. The Dems know they cannot win on the real issues (see above), so they continue to attack him personally hoping for a negative reaction. Rather than focusing on the issues Trump has fallen into the trap of wasting time and energy defending himself.
- Failure to disclose his taxes. In my opinion, he should have “bit the bullet” and released them. I said so in a recent blog. Given his team of tax advisors it is inconceivable to me that they contain any “smoking guns.” So he used the tax code to minimize his tax liability. So what? Doesn’t everybody? What moron willingly pays more than he has to? This is a bogus issue, especially when compared to the real issues.
- The Access Hollywood tape and allegations of sexual abuse by various females. There is no excuse for the language on the tape, no acceptable defense. That said, Trump, having apologized, should have just moved on. Stop talking about it. Stop talking about Bill Clinton’s transgressions. Everybody knows what he did. At this point, few people care. Regarding the allegations, they are just that. No one ever filed a complaint. No legal action was taken. Who knows what is true, and what is false. Also, some of them were 20 years ago. What’s next, a story that he bullied a little girl when he was six?
The demographics of the country are such that any GOP presidential candidate would face an uphill battle. The problem is not so much the popular vote, but the electoral votes. Most polls agree that in order to win the required 270 electoral votes Trump probably would have to win virtually all of the so-called “battleground” states, most notably Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and some of the western states like Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. According to most polls he is either behind or even in all of them.
I believe that his last chance to win will likely be in the last debate tomorrow. It will be his last chance to speak before a national audience. He must “win” it convincingly, but moreover, he must somehow take advantage of it to reduce his 20 point deficit among women voters. Otherwise, Clinton will win and, perhaps, in a landslide. If so, look out.