By Matthew E. Milliken
June 17, 2016
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is struggling — and his difficulties could harm his party’s electoral chances.
Recently, Trump issued several scathing attacks on Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge overseeing civil fraud lawsuits against the defunct Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, né Trump “University.” Trump’s sharp words earned him reprimands from several Republican allies. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who’s facing a difficult re-election battle in Illinois, withdrew his endorsement of Trump, saying, “I cannot support him because of what he said about the judge. That was too racist and bigoted for me.” U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic despite their shared party affiliation, tweeted that “[s]aying someone can’t do a specific job because of his or her race is the literal definition of ‘racism.’”
After Sunday morning’s tragic gun massacre in Orlando, the New York businessman suggested that President Obama is some kind of Islamic terrorist sympathizer, if not an outright mole, and reupped his recommendation that Muslims be banned from entering the nation. Politico had a good roundup of Republicans’ dismayed responses to Trump’s swagger. “I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest. I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party but as a country,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said.
Other GOP lawmakers were blunter in their assessments of Trump’s tough talk. “You don’t ban somebody on race [or] religion,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. “I think you have to be a little careful with the rhetoric,” said U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. “You don’t want to inflame or help the recruiting efforts.” A senior Republican legislator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Trump “just blows up everything we want to do. Every time you turn around, he’s said something new. It’s impossible for us to keep up.”
Trump’s struggles are amply reflected in the newest ABC News/Washington Post survey, which shows that 70 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the real-estate developer. An astonishing 88 percent of nonwhite respondents in the poll, which was released Wednesday, held negative views of Trump.
That data is hardly an outlier. A Bloomberg Politics survey also released on Wednesday showed that the Republican Party is viewed favorably by only 32 percent of Americans, the lowest level on record since Bloomberg began polling on the matter in 2009. “This is obviously related to perceptions of Trump,” said J. Ann Selzer, the pollster who conducted the survey. “This bleeds out into perceptions of the party and to other GOP politicians.”
The discomfort between the Trump campaign and top Republicans extends behind the curtains, too. Politico released a detailed story on Wednesday revealing a great deal of tension between Trump and the Republican National Committee. This is particularly ominous for Trump’s electoral hopes since his campaign has disdained a great deal of the fundraising, data-analysis and get-out-the-vote infrastructure and was counting on the RNC to fill the gap.
It doesn’t help matters that Trump seems to be fixated with competing for votes in consistently Democratic states such as New York and California. That strategy promises to be very expensive to execute and extremely unlikely to produce results — not an ideal combination for a candidate and a party that were facing an uphill battle right from the get-go.
Now, plenty of time remains between now and Nov. 8. (Gawker, which is holding a countdown to the election, noted Friday that there were “143 Days and a Wake Up.”) It’s possible that Trump could turn this thing around, or that the public will come around to his fear-mongering and radical, Constitution-abrogating ideas that will supposedly “Make America Great Again.”
But just in case the election fundamentals don’t change suddenly, I’ve got a brilliant plan to bolster Trump’s ratings. Stay tuned to this space to get all the exciting details!