Now that the 2016 presidential race has entered the general election phase, is Donald Trump pivoting in the wrong direction?
Generally party candidates, once they clinch presumptive nominee status, turn from their partisan primary positions towards a more centrist approach. That’s a “pivot” in political terms. Thus a few weeks ago, there was lots of pundit chatter about a possible Trump 2.0, a new model with toned-down rhetoric and a more restrained persona.
Needless to say that Mr. Trump is as of yet nowhere to be found. If anything Trump has turned in the other direction. He’s doubled-down on policies that split the Republican Party, such as his attacks on US-born federal judge Gonzalo Curiel for “Mexican” heritage, and his proposed ban on Muslim immigrants and general anti-Muslim jabs.
Trump’s warned GOP leaders who oppose some of this stuff, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, that they need to get behind him and “get tougher” or “be quiet.” He’s reportedly shown only moderate interest in helping raise the hundreds of millions of dollars mainstream presidential efforts require.
Meanwhile, days slip past without Trump focusing attacks on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server, Wall Street speeches, and low trustworthiness ratings. Those are among Mrs. Clinton’s biggest vulnerabilities. It’s almost seems as if Trump wants to continue to compete with established GOP lawmakers instead.
“At some point Trump needs to ask himself which party he’s running against,” writes Benjy Sarlin of NBC News today, making this point.
He needs to refocus on Clinton because the fact is that he’s falling behind. If anything he appears to be disuniting the Republican Party. You can see this illustrated in the chart of RealClearPolitics’ Trump versus Clinton rolling poll average. On May 24, Trump led by hair, 43.4 percent to 43.2. Since then Clinton’s proceeded apace, bumping up a bit but not a lot. Trump’s nosed over and pitched steeply downward. He’s dropped 5.5 points in less than a month, and now trails by 44.1 to 38.3 percent. A few recent individual surveys show Trump trailing by double digits.
Ominously for Trump, Clinton’s now rallying her party better than he is, despite the fact that Bernie Sanders has yet to officially drop out of the race. A recent CBS News poll shows Trump backed by 73 percent of Republicans – but Clinton gets the support of 81 percent of Democrats. Among independents the pair are basically tied.
The result has been a renewed sense of anger and despair among Republicans anxious about losing their Senate and House majorities. They note that Trump’s unfavorable ratings have reached historic levels – worse even than Clinton’s – and that he shows no signs of even acknowledging his problems.
As a result, a scattering of delegates to the Republican National Convention have formed a new “Anybody But Trump” movement, reports The Washington Post. They hope to change convention rules to unbind delegates and deny Trump the nomination – though they have little idea what might come after that. It’s possible this idea will ripple through the delegates and gain strength if more begin to believe their nominee is acting unhinged. But it’s much more likely that the RNC bows to the will of GOP primary voters and officially dubs Trump the standard-bearer of all Republicans for the fall.