Donald Trump is starting to look a lot like Glenn Close in the bathtub scene of Fatal Attraction.
The press, the pundits, the pollsters, the Democrats and an increasing number of Republican politicians say he’s dead in the water, but he just won’t stay down.
The number-crunchers at the website FiveThirtyEight find that Trump’s chances of winning the presidency in November have plummeted in the past couple of weeks, and now stand at 20.1 percent versus 79.9 percent for Hillary Clinton.
One recent poll has Clinton ahead by 15 percentage points, a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll gives her a 9 point advantage and the Real Clear Politics poll average puts her lead at 6.8. For Trump, that’s a dizzying drop from what was a neck-and-neck race just a month ago.
Certainly some of that dive reflects his unseemly grudge match with the Muslim parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, which has escalated since they denounced Trump at the Democratic National Committee and now has shocked much of the nation.
The controversy with Khizr and Ghazala Khan has brought on a torrent of criticism. Trump has been chastised by GOP elders such as Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, and he has been abandoned by a gaggle of big-name Republicans such as Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman (who’s voting for Clinton), former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and former CIA Director Mike Hayden (who called him “a clear and present danger”). He has been called out by one of the most powerful veterans group in the country, the VFW, for attacking a Gold Star family, and he has been pummeled on social media. Bush political guru Karl Rove writes in The Wall Street Journal that the Kahn debacle and Trump’s self-destructive ways may open up a gap with Clinton that will never close.
Trump’s inexplicable answer has been to taunt the powerful if reluctant allies he needs, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, whom he said he wasn’t ready to endorse, causing a split with his own running mate, former Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
But, despite all that, Trump’s revolution of red-faced Republican irregulars is not done.
The campaign the reality TV star has run up until now on his own shoestring and attention-grabbing chutzpah has just taken a momentous and mind-blowing turn, raising $82 million last month in concert with the Republican National Committee. That’s not far behind the $90 million that the Clinton campaign, showered with big-money donations, pulled in, the Times said.
What must be most disturbing to the Clinton camp is not that the Trump campaign had only about $1.3 million cash on hand at the end of May but that most of the July donations pouring in were from small donors sending ten or twenty bucks. That is much like the backing that powered the insurgent challenge to Clinton from Bernie Sanders, who received average contributions, if anyone needs reminding, of $27.
A Times headline on Friday blares that Trump is alienating the military voters he needs in key swing states such as Florida. But on Wednesday 10,000 people – the partisan website Breitbart put the number at 15,000 – jammed a rally for their outrageous hero at, appropriately, Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.
As Amy Walter of the widely respected and nonpartisan Cook Political Report wrote two days ago, the chatter in Washington is that the “ Trump campaign [has] literally imploded, sending red hot shards of burning metal across the countryside.”
But despite Trump being a “damaged” candidate running a “terrible” campaign, that’s a narrative Walter isn’t buying.
Part of the reason is Clinton’s “unforced errors,” Walter charitably writes. But they are symptomatic of the former secretary of state’s apparent inability to confront the truth, forcefully concede her mistakes and move on.
And it is almost impossible to plumb the depths of distrust (and worse) that many Americans have for Hillary. At this point – remember, it’s just early August – there’s no way to know how badly those negative feelings will hurt Clinton on Election Day.
A colleague came across these telling comments on Facebook:
“I'd rather have Obama for 20 years than Hillary for one.”
“If it takes the world to end to keep that idiotic lying [****] out of office then so be it!!!”
“I enjoy Baseball, freedom and guns … Hillary doesn't support anything I like so she can go far away and take her lies with her.”
The Republicans probably could have nominated a chimp in an orange wig, and plenty of rank-and-filers would be supporting the simian over Clinton. The question is how big that rank-and-file vote will be come November, and no one knows the answer at this point.
Yes, Trump is a dangerously flawed candidate on a crazy train to who knows where, but it ain’t over until the lady in the pantsuit sings “Alleluia!”