Did You Know
Did You Know
Donald Trump has insisted all is well with his campaign even as Republicans grow increasingly worried about a candidate who seems to have gone permanently off-track.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is reportedly among a handful of high-profile Republicans considering whether to confront Trump about his approach to his presidential campaign.
“There is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than ever before,” the Republican candidate tweeted on Wednesday.
But in recent days, as Trump has continued to pursue a feud with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in combat in Iraq, pointedly refused to endorse Republican House speaker Paul Ryan and 2008 GOP nominee John McCain in their primary elections and suggested that November’s election would be rigged, his conduct has led to a number of reports that top Republicans may be attempting an intervention and that top Trump campaign staffers have been “frustrated”, “suicidal” and now “mailing it in”.
The Trump campaign aggressively pushed back against the reports, with spokesman Jason Miller boasting on Tuesday night: “Our campaign just finished our strongest month of fundraising to date, we’re adding talented and experienced staffers on a daily basis and Mr Trump is turning out bigger, more enthusiastic crowds than Hillary Clinton ever could.”
However, campaign chair Paul Manafort struck a slightly more resigned note in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, saying: “I’m in control of the things that the candidate wants me to control.”
According to the Associated Press, citing a Republican official with direct knowledge of Priebus’ plans, the RNC chairman may join a small group of well-respected Republicans to confront Trump in the coming days. The plan is not final, but the official says the group may include former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, both Trump allies.
Priebus has already been speaking with Manafort and the billionaire’s children, who are said to agree that Trump needs to stop picking fights within his own party and back off his criticism of the Khan family.
Trump’s vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence, told Fox News he backed Ryan. Last week, he issued a statement calling Capt Humayun Khan an “American hero” following Trump’s criticism of his parents.
Although there had long been the belief among party elders that Trump, whose success as a candidate has been attributed to outlandish statements and a yen for courting controversy, would pivot in a general election and somehow become a more sober, focused political figure, that expectation increasingly seems like wishful thinking on their part. Instead, top Republicans are expressing growing regret that they have hitched their wagon to such a flawed candidate.
Now, GOP figures are trying to make peace with the fact that Trump, who even seemed to pick a fight with a bawling infant at a campaign rally on Tuesday, is not becoming more “presidential”. Instead, the Trump who is bashing McCain as having “not done a good job for the vets” is the same erratic candidate who prompted party elders to roll their eyes in the summer of 2015 when he said John McCain “was not a war hero”.
Trump’s unusual behavior is also prompting some prominent Republicans to jump ship. While many top GOP figures have insisted that they would not vote for Trump under any circumstances, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, this week marked the first time outside of national security circles that any explicitly said that they would support Hilary Clinton.
On Tuesday, Richard Hanna, a retiring GOP congressman from upstate New York, announced that he would be voting for Clinton in November. In an op-ed in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Hanna wrote: “While I disagree with her on many issues, I will vote for Mrs Clinton. I will be hopeful and resolute in my belief that being a good American who loves his country is far more important than parties or winning and losing.”
Hanna has been joined in his support for Clinton by former top staffers for Jeb Bush and Chris Christie as well as former California gubernatorial candidate and top Republican donor Meg Whitman, who told the New York Times that she would raise money for the former secretary of state.
Others are delivering rebukes in more guarded terms. At a fundraiser for Ohio senator Rob Portman on Tuesday, former president George W Bush criticized Trump’s policies of “isolationism, nativism and protectionism” without mentioning the nominee by name.
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The criticism comes as Trump is collapsing in the polls in the past week as whatever gains the Republican nominee saw from his party’s convention in Cleveland have been erased by both the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and the controversy over the Khan family. Clinton has built up a steady lead in national polls and is even ahead in traditionally Republican states such as Arizona.
Further, despite the Trump campaign boasting that fundraising for the month of July was strong, leaving the candidate with $37m on hand to spend, Trump has built almost no political infrastructure in many key states and is trying to run for president with an understaffed, threadbare campaign. The result is that he is left relying almost entirely on the organizing efforts of the Republican National Committee for basic campaign functions like voter contact.
The crisis for Trump isn’t unprecedented. Trump went through a similar period of controversy in June, shortly after clinching the Republican nomination, when he suggested that the federal judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against him because Curiel is “of Mexican heritage”. Although the controversy caused Republican senator Mark Kirk to withdraw his endorsement of Trump and Ryan to say that Trump’s comments were the “textbook definition of a racist comment”, Republicans stuck by him then, before he was the party’s official nominee.
The question is whether anything Trump has said about Paul Ryan or about the Khan family will cause a different reaction now.