On Face the Nation on Sunday, I argued that prior to the past week, Donald Trump had made just one tactical mistake: skipping the last debate before Iowa. This past week they made two: failing to grasp the importance of delegate operations and engaging in a misguided and unnecessary attack on Heidi Cruz.
The former is the bigger mistake: the Cruz delegate operation is forcing Trump to get to the delegate majority by working to ensure in states like Louisiana and elsewhere that Trump could lose on a second ballot. In the context of checks and balances, the arcane nomination is yet another way the institutions protect themselves and the people from demagogues and hucksters. Trump’s response has been a typical one: threaten lawsuits over the lost Louisiana delegates. But that won’t amount to much. And actually, should he prevail in decertifying Louisiana’s results, it would lead to fewer delegates for himself, and he’d still have to get to 1,237. Sad!
But the latter mistake speaks to Trump’s personality, and his inability at this stage to become a unifying figure without reversing course – just listen to what happens when Trump gets asked real questions by Charlie Sykes, and the degree to which he falls back on his typical attacks even in the face of demands for evidence not in existence.
At exactly the moment Trump ought to be transforming himself into a unifying figure, he is ensuring that is all the more difficult by stooping to baseless personal attacks and driving down his numbers among Republican women and social conservatives. In failing to recognize the importance of delegates and in engaging in these unnecessary personal attacks, Trump decreases his potential to win the nomination on the first ballot. If Trump is actually beaten because of these decisions it shows he’s not ready to lead a party anyway.
And lest you think this is just typical anti-Trump tendency, listen to his supporters: Ann Coulter, a more dedicated Trump defender than any, is getting frustrated with Trump for his late night Twitter shenanigans:
“I’m a little testy with our man right now. Our candidate is mental! Do you realize our candidate is mental?” Coulter said jokingly during a taping of an episode of the “Milo Yiannopoulos Show,” which is scheduled to air in full this weekend. “It’s like constantly having to bail out your 16-year-old son from prison.”
“For Coulter, Trump’s attacks on Cruz’s wife may have crossed a line, and she wished he, “would be a teensy bit less low-brow.” “This is the worst thing that he has done,” she said as her host laughed. “Everything else I could probably defend.”
The hilarious but occasionally terrifying Yiannopoulos, who Kevin Williamson described as having “done more to put homosexual camp in the service of right-wing authoritarianism than any man has since the fellows at Hugo Boss sewed all those nifty SS uniforms”, disagreed, defending the man he calls “Daddy”.
“The trashier he gets, the more I love him!” the host said. “I think it’s so outrageously funny. People are so sick of earnest pearl-clutching from the establishment. A presidential candidate — and not just a presidential candidate, but somebody who’s probably going to get the nomination is saying ‘you’re wife’s ugly and my wife’s hot’ — I think that’s amazing. It may not scream ‘presidential material…’ But some people are going to think ‘what a boss!’”
“Coulter responded, saying, “You know, I love him so much on immigration I’m not even going to argue with you. I say low-brow, you say amazing … Let’s just talk about what he’s good on. He’s the only one who’s going to build a wall, but please stop testing our patience on the rest of this stuff.”
Coulter is a lot of things, but she’s no dummy. She understands that by politicizing Heidi Cruz’s depression and her appearance, Trump is hurting his ability to ever receive the support of a growing portion of Republican women, particularly social conservatives and evangelicals. D.C. McAllister:
One thing I’ve learned through my own struggles with depression is those who don’t suffer from it can’t possibly understand what you’re going through. They think you’re just sad, but it’s so much deeper than that. Only you know the pain in your own heart. The window to your soul is closed to the world. This is why exploiting Cruz’s suffering is so wrong. It cheapens the real struggles of millions of people and exposes the personal pain of a lovely woman who has struggled to overcome a terrible illness and has done it with grace. We should show her, and anyone else wrestling with depression, that same grace.
When your most loyal media supporter is saying you’re mental, low-brow, and that these latest attacks are the worst thing your candidate has done, it should send a message to any normal campaign that you ought to reconsider your course. The acolytes Trump surrounds himself with, however, seem to have little capacity for such reflection. We shall see if they prove me wrong.