Catastrophic. Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post summarizes the past two weeks:
Within the past two weeks, the Republicans held a dreadfully negative convention that made Donald Trump and the GOP look worse in the eyes of voters. During that convention, Trump attacked the home-state governor; the Republican National Committee strong-armed the rules committee to run over Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) and other dissenters; Melania Trump’s speech turned out to be plagiarized; and the No. 2 finisher in the primary got booed off stage for refusing to back the nominee. And that was better for Republicans than the week that followed.
The Democratic convention, which easily could have been confused with a GOP convention from the 1980s, pretty much united the party and presented it as the grown-up, inclusive, patriotic and sane party. While the Dems were meeting, Trump was inviting Russia to practice its brand of cyberwarfare on the United States and insisting Vladimir Putin could be our pal. Most important, Democrats introduced the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan to the country, thereby unhinging Trump.
Trump thereupon spent more days than he did in Cleveland attacking the Gold Star parents. (On Tuesday, he said he regretted nothing.) Over the weekend, he suggested that either Crimea isn’t part of Ukraine or he was unaware Russia is in more than Crimea. Tuesday (we’re only up to Tuesday!), he said he wished he had a Purple Heart too, told Americans not to invest in the stock market, said strong women don’t get sexually harassed and refused to back three GOP incumbent congressmen. Oh, and he says he knows the election is being rigged because he just “hears things” (the whispers of imaginary friends maybe?) and can “feel it.”
I’ve probably forgotten a few more blunders, but we may have witnessed the worst two-week stretch of any presidential candidate ever. Trump has now managed to raise the issue of his own mental stability. He has undercut the argument that he is capable of been guided or restrained by advisers or Congress. And he has demonstrated how inept a manager he is. (Clinton has about $98 million of prepaid TV ad time; Trump has about $1 million.) It is fair to say that if he is this out-of-control and unhinged in an election, he’d be a basket case in the Oval Office.
It is important to look at the totality of Trump’s actions not only in the past two weeks but over the course of these many months — his habitual lying (for one thing, about his willingness to release his tax returns), unremitting ignorance, racist comments about a federal judge and gutter-dwelling campaign designed to appeal to hate and fear. What we have seen in two weeks is not new, but rather a highly condensed excerpt of the sort of campaign he’s been running all along.
Take a look at what’s happened in the last 24 hours:
- In a Washington Post interview, Trump declined to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan against his primary challenger
- He reiterated that he hasn’t endorsed Sen. John McCain and said the onetime prisoner of war “has not done a good job for the vets”
- He slapped out at Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, saying “she has given me zero support”
- He suggested that Americans should pull their 401(k) funds out of the stock market
- He said he’s “always wanted” to receive a Purple Heart but that having one gifted to him by a supporter was “much easier”
- He said that the handling of sexual harassment has “got to be up to the individual”
- He held an impromptu press conference complaining that the Columbus (OH) Fire Marshall was against him because they limited the rally size to 1000 people when, as it turns out, documents reveal that his campaign had agreed to limit the rally size to 1000
- He accused Khizr Khan of being “bothered” by his plan to keep terrorists out of the country, and said that he had no regrets about his clash with the family
- He appeared to feud with a crying baby during a rally
- He reiterated that “if the election is rigged, I would not be surprised”
- The sitting president of the United States publicly called Trump “unfit to serve” and urged Republicans to withdraw their support for him.
- Trump spokesman Katrina Pierson suggested that Obama and Clinton are to blame for the death of Humayan Khan, who died in 2004, when neither were in the executive branch at the time
- An ally of Paul Manafort told John Harwood at CNBC that the campaign chairman is “mailing it in,” leaving the rest of the staff “suicidal.”
- Sitting GOP congressman Richard Hanna, HP head Meg Whitman and former Christie aide Maria Comella all said they plan to vote for Hillary Clinton
- The Washington Post released a transcript of its full interview with Trump, indicating among other things that he paused five times to watch TV coverage in the middle of the sit-down
- A GOP source told NBC’s Katy Tur that Reince Priebus is “apoplectic” over Trump’s refusal to endorse Ryan and is making calls to the campaign to express his “extreme displeasure”
Anyone of these things would derail any other campaign in any other year. These are things that just happened since yesterday morning.
The polls have Clinton five to nine points ahead nationally, and I suspect that is still just the DNC bounce, and doesn’t weigh in the past 48 hours. Arizona, which a Democrat has won only once in the last 64 years, is now a swing state.
So where are we today? Well….
ABC News has learned that senior party officials are so frustrated — and confused — by Donald Trump‘s erratic behavior that they are exploring how to replace him on the ballot if he drops out.
So how would it work?
First, Trump would have to voluntarily exit the race. Officials say there is no mechanism for forcing him to withdraw his nomination. (Trump has not given any indications that he no longer wants to be his party’s nominee.)
Then it would be up to the 168 members of the Republican National Committee to choose a successor, though the process is complicated.
One Republican legal expert has advised party officials that, for practical reasons, Trump would have to drop out by early September to give the party enough time to choose his replacement and get the next nominee’s name on the ballot in enough states to win.
It looks like there is going to be an intervention:
Key Republicans close to Donald Trump’s orbit are plotting an intervention with the candidate after a disastrous 48 hours led some influential voices in the party to question whether Trump can stay at the top of the Republican ticket without catastrophic consequences for his campaign and the GOP at large.
Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former Republican New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the Trump endorsers hoping to talk the real estate mogul into a dramatic reset of his campaign in the coming days, sources tell NBC News.
Here is what the RNC’s bylaws say about filling a vacancy on a presidential ticket:
Rule No. 9: Filling Vacancies in Nominations
(a) The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination or otherwise of the Republican candidate for president of the United States or the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.
(b) In voting under this rule, the Republican National Committee members representing any state shall be entitled to cast the same number of votes as said state was entitled to cast at the national convention.
(c) In the event that the members of the Republican National Committee from any state shall not be in agreement in the casting of votes hereunder, the votes of such state shall be divided equally, including fractional votes, among the members of the Republican National Committee present or voting by proxy.
(d) No candidate shall be chosen to fill any such vacancy except upon receiving a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the election.
Is Trump going to voluntarily quit?
Well, clearly he has narcissistic personality disorder. People are not even debating that now. And so, I suspect, the answer is no.
Trump pollster dismisses the notion that he’ll drop out as “wishful thinking.” https://t.co/Ab7KDgqDkE
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) August 3, 2016
This too also:
Trump chief @PaulManafort on Fox News: “The turmoil—this is another Clinton narrative that is put out there and the media is picking up on.”
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) August 3, 2016
And the hits keep on coming. His big cheerleader, Newt Gingrich is trying to put a happy face on it:
The election at this point is similar to “The Apprentice,” except he’s the apprentice, he’s not the boss. He doesn’t get to say ‘you’re fired.’ The American people get to say, ‘you’re fired.’ So he’s really got to take a deep breath. I think he has the potential to win the election
This is an insane election.
Senior trump staff just called me all together to tell me they’re not frustrated. More on @cnn top of the hour
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) August 3, 2016
Well, what would you expect them to say?