It’s hard to imagine a worse few weeks for Donald Trump.
He had been riding high after clinching the Republican primary. Then the Trump University lawsuit story hit in earnest.
Trump overreacted and verbally attacked the federal judge in the case, questioning his objectivity because of his Mexican heritage. That led to near universal renouncements in the political world. Then came the Orlando shooting. Trump’s statements on it largely backfired. It looked as if he were taking advantage of a terrorist attack.
Then the wheels came off his campaign, indeed, the nation learned there wasn’t one — not a national one anyway. His campaign manager was fired and his campaign bank account was exposed to be virtually empty, while Clinton was raising cash hand over fist. We also learned that Trump’s campaign has fewer staffers than some law firms have interns.
To most observers it looked as if Trump for President was in utter free fall, and perhaps it was. But its poll numbers weren’t.
After everything that’s happened this year, after all of Trump’s insults and vulgarities to myriad people and ethnic groups, Trump, remarkably, remains in easy striking distance in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, according the Real Clear Politics polling average.
That has to have Hillary Clinton’s crackerjack political team sweating bullets. The last two weeks were their opportunity to take the kill shot, but Donald Trump just wouldn’t die. He never stops coming. He has no shame. And he’s always on message.
How do you deal with that? And just how much do voters dislike Hillary?
A few weeks ago, I went to the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester with a client and watched Trump give an awfully good speech. It was a populist gem, delivered via teleprompter, and obviously crafted by a master hand. The very next day he spoiled its afterglow by falling back into extemporaneous rants, in that case against Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren. But for a brief moment, the night before, Trump and his team showed a glimpse of what they’re capable of.
If — and it’s a huge if — Trump’s new campaign boss Paul Manafort can finally tether Trump’s tongue, the next four months could be interesting.
There’s one more thing Manafort could convince Trump to do: Apologize — offer a major national mea culpa for all the awful things he’s said over the past year. Tell Americans that his vulgarity is driven by his intense anger against the status quo and his passion to make America great again. Then move on in a disciplined way.
What would Clinton do with that?
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.