Has Donald Trump hit bottom?

The unraveling of Donald Trump’s candidacy continues apace, a long and steady decline since the high point three months ago. If he were deliberately trying to avoid winning the election, he could hardly be doing a better job.

 

The hole he has dug for himself is wide and deep. National and battleground state polls all tell a similar story. Hillary Clinton has opened up a small-to-significant lead over Trump almost everywhere it counts. Unless Trump can reverse course, Clinton, despite persistent questions about her honesty, is on track to win a handsome majority. The lone bright spot for Trump: It’s August not October. But that comes with a caveat.

 

Republicans hope Trump is bottoming out. They are waiting for a pivot that could and should have happened before Memorial Day. They wonder whether it will happen by the end of the month or at all. Labor Day used to be seen as the kickoff of the general election — that moment when more and more Americans start paying close attention. That notion is a relic of another era — and Trump is hardly underexposed. The general election is already half over, and Trump has lost the first half decisively.

 

The past few weeks provide a telling account of a candidate who has found multiple ways to avoid focusing on a consistent message. He got into a pointless and damaging exchange of criticisms with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004. He hesitated to give House Speaker Paul D. Ryan an endorsement while praising Ryan’s opponent in the Wisconsin primary. He made a comment at a rally that appeared to advocate violence against Clinton or Supreme Court justices. And then he claimed that President Obama was the founder of the Islamic State (and Clinton the co-founder).

 

The pattern was consistent. Days of damaging media attention followed by cleanup efforts. After not endorsing Ryan, he endorsed Ryan. After making his comment about what Second Amendment supporters could do if they didn’t like Clinton’s judicial appointments, he and surrogates said he was only talking about mobilizing a key constituency. After calling Obama the founder of the Islamic State, and doubling down when more benign interpretations of his remarks were offered as escapes, he finally claimed he was just being sarcastic, or maybe not.

 

 

 

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