No one wants to go out on a limb and predict that Donald Trump is going to go down in flames as the worst candidate in recent Presidential history. He’s been written off too often, and all those proclaiming him finished were proven wrong. Given that track record, it seems absurd to write off the Donald’s chances in November. Yet I will go on a limb: Trump will get trounced. The question will be how much will this effect the Senate and House races.
First, let me acknowledge all the reasons why Trump might surprise people and win. He taps into an Angst people have for a rapidly changing and somewhat dangerous world. Those who have inwardly complained about foreigners and immigrants now have someone who publicly stands up for “America first” – or is it white America first? His disregard for political correctness generates support from people afraid to use almost any word because of how it might be taken, especially in the work place. At a time when nearly 70% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and trust for politicians is at a low ebb, Trump represents a real shake up to the system. When the opponent is an insiders insider, an unloved and often disdained Hillary Clinton, Trump might win big.
I’ve heard those arguments and I reject them. I think that by late October it will be clear to everyone that Hillary is in command and the GOP will do whatever it can to ditch its close connection with Trump and focus on winning down ticket.
Why is that? It’s not just because Hillary seems to have experienced a big post-convention bounce after an affair in Philadelphia that made Trump’s Cleveland get together look like it was run by dilettantes. Nor is it because Democrats have come together in a manner few thought possible just a month ago. Rather, the American people ultimately will not elect someone so unqualified for office by temperament, experience, and character. Donald Trump has climbed to the Peter Principle pinnacle for charlatans. He’s run this con as far as he can, and now it’s about to collapse.
1. His message is not resonating beyond a small core. Yes, I know – Trump has polled 40-45%, which is pretty impressive. Yet if you look at the primary season, Trump won the GOP nomination by dividing and conquering a cacophony of opposing voices. Bush, Carson, Christie, Santorum, Fiorina, Kasich, Cruz, Rubio, Huckebee, and Graham – and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others – all appeared to be bit actors against the reality TV star whose bombast and personality garnered a plurality of votes in a crowded field.
Yet his audience is limited. He’s appealed to fear of foreigners, anger at demographic change, and to those who think the brave new world of the 21st Century is a scary place. They hope he can warp them back to 1983 when things seemed more sane. Or perhaps they want 1953? This isn’t enough to win him a general election, and his message seems to be remaining narrow rather than expansive.
2. His ground game is not ready for prime time. Republican insiders were shocked at how ill prepared Trump was for the big show. He was and still is miles behind Clinton in fundraising, staffing, and preparation for a strong get out the vote effort. He is making up ground quickly, but that’s mostly because he’s getting a lot of help now that he’s the nominee. Still, enough big time donors, movers and shakers within the GOP are keeping Trump at a distance, and on election day he’ll be unable to compete with the Democrat’s ground game.
3. He cannot run a disciplined, focused campaign – nor does he want to. The one way Trump could overcome all this was to convince people that the wild shoot from the hip star of the primary season was really a thoughtful conservative who understood the role of the Presidency. The idea here was that people would say, “yeah, he acted a bit crazy to win over the primary voters, but that was an act, the real Trump can be a force for positive change.” So far, he’s given no sign he can alter how he presents himself. I think that’s because he can’t – nor does he want to.
4. Facts keep coming out. The Trump university law suit. His tax returns. His numerous bankruptcies. His exclusive use of outsourcing for his products. The real state of his finances (hint: he’s not near as rich as he pretends to be – quite the contrary). Whereas the e-mail scandal that’s dogged Hillary has done as much damage as possible by this point, Trump can still be wounded by having details about his scandals come out. Well funded campaigns will do just that, even while not being associated with the Clinton campaign.
Just over 90 days from election day it’s starting to look very much like Trump has not only peaked, but does not have the capacity to do better. Meanwhile, the campaign is just starting in earnest. He’s like a runner gave all he could to be among the top two at mile 18 of a marathon, but who has nothing left to give. Absent some unexpected external shock, I feel extremely confident predicting a Clinton landslide.
That said, I would not advise betting on this race. I may be wrong.