Politics & Policy

Trump Is Losing, and Losing It

(Eric Thayer/Reuters)
He and his media enablers are going down.

Every profession has its in-house lingo, which may be confusing to amateurs. For example, in the world of campaign professionals, there’s a term for a candidate who spends most of his time complaining about the media: “Loser.”

Ask Bob Dole. “Where’s the outrage?” he demanded, and he was right to ask. But that moment also announced the effective end of his presidential campaign. He wasn’t running against Bill Clinton any more, or even against the media, which are, after all, only a medium. He was running at that point against the American people, who weren’t buying what he was selling.

Unless something radical and unexpected happens, Donald Trump is going to lose the 2016 presidential election — he’ll lose it more than Hillary Rodham Clinton will win it — for more or less the reasons that his critics on the right have been explaining for more than a year now: In short, the sort of thing that makes hearts go pitter-patter out in derka-derka talk-radio land doesn’t necessarily fly in the rest of the country and may in fact even come off as creepy and weird, which is why three times as many people watch The Middle — a show I’d never heard of — as watch Sean Hannity’s nightly Trump-fest on Fox News. There’s more to America than your Uncle Bob’s right-wing Facebook circle, and Trump isn’t very well prepared for that.

Our friend Hugh Hewitt found this out the hard way. The talk-radio host was trying to help the Republican nominee explain away his absurd and surreal claim that Barack Obama is the founder of the Islamic State. “I know what you meant,” Hewitt said. “You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.” But Trump refused to take Hewitt’s good counsel: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump insisted. “I do.” Hewitt pointed out that President Obama does, from time to time, invest a fair amount of time and energy in killing Islamic State operatives. Trump: “I don’t care.”

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Many Americans’ only metaphysical experience in this life will have been seeing, with the mind’s eye, Hugh Hewitt wincing through the radio.

Trump had been halfway following the advice of Benjamin Disraeli, even though he’s almost certainly never heard of him: “Never complain, never explain.” He can’t help but complain, but now he’s in explaining-himself mode, too. When his remarks on President Obama and the Islamic State were greeted as yet another piece of evidence that Donald J. Trump may in fact be bats**t crazy, he started backing away from his claim, waving his hands and calling it “sarcastic.”

#share#Trump’s descent into full-bore toddler mode is not unexpected: He already is making excuses for losing in November and boasting that it doesn’t matter that much to him, because, as he put it, “I go back to a very good way of life.” And the people who supported him go back to seeing their liberties curtailed and their constitutional order perverted by an old-fashioned Democratic machine politician who could have been beaten by a dozen actual conservatives from whom Republicans had the opportunity to choose.

He blames the media, for making him look nuts by reporting the things he says — which are nuts.

The race in Ohio will probably be decided to a large part in Hamilton County — where Trump hadn’t bothered to set up an actual campaign operation as of last week. As of early August, the Trump campaign had one staffer in southwest Ohio. In Florida, where Trump is down at 39 percent, his campaign had one field office as of last week. He’s getting killed in Virginia, North Carolina, and Colorado — where Clinton leads him by 14 points, and where Trump’s field operation is in terms of personnel and offices only a fraction of what the Clinton campaign has put on the ground.

You can complain that the media is unfair to Republicans — it is. But it isn’t the media that’s stopping Trump from organizing the basics of a presidential campaign. Trump is set to lose Georgia. Trump probably will end up winning Texas and Utah, but it is not inconceivable that he could lose them. And all that brave talk about the New Yorker making the race competitive in northern Democratic strongholds? Clinton is up 21 points in the latest New Jersey poll, 17 points in the latest New York poll, 10 points in the latest from Michigan, and 25 points in the latest from Illinois. The only Democratic states Trump currently is winning are the ones that were really Democratic until about 1994 or so, and he’s not even doing that great there, either, up by only 3 points in Mississippi. 

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Trump cannot imagine — cannot even entertain the notion — that this is Trump’s fault. He blames the media, for making him look nuts by reporting the things he says — which are nuts. Talking with Hannity, he moaned: “I’ll say something at a rally and I look out and see all these TV cameras taking every word down. No one in politics has ever been subjected to this kind of treatment.”


#related#Most recently, he has been looking for an excuse to skip the debates against Hillary Rodham Clinton, clearly terrified that she is going to hand him his ass. Does anybody think Ted Cruz would have been looking for an excuse to dodge a debate with Clinton? He’d have been asking for 40 of them.

It’s too early to begin the bloody and tearful recriminations — but there will be a time. Not to blame Trump for being Trump, which is exactly what anybody with a lick of sense would expect him to be. But those who enabled him, who plumped him and the largely fictitious establishment-vs.-the-base soap opera for their own personal audience-building and money-making agendas? We are going to need to have a word about them, come November.

— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.

CORRECTION: The quote from Trump complaining to Hannity about media coverage is a fabrication from a satire columnist


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