It is Donald Trump’s election to lose.
In the week after the conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, there is reason to fear that he will do so.
At a time when Trump should be hammering relentlessly on the Obama administration’s weak economic record and its foreign policy failures, at a time when he should be constantly reminding voters that Hillary Clinton will be little else than an Obama third term, and at a time when Hillary Clinton continues to get caught lying to voters, Donald Trump wasted a week bogged down in a verbal sparring match with a Gold Star family.
Khizir Khan and his wife spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Khan is a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan. His son, Humayan Khan, was an Army captain who was killed in action in Iraq.
The Democrats put Khan on stage at their convention to go after Trump. One might call it baiting.
Trump took the bait.
In an interview, Trump pointed out that Mrs. Khan said nothing on the stage – suggesting that in Muslim culture women aren’t allowed to speak.
The media went into a frenzy and has talked about little else since.
As a result, seven of the 102 days that stood between Trump and the election when this episode began have been permanently lost.
The 2016 presidential election should be a winner for the Republican Party – for many reasons. The first is history. Rarely is a sitting party given a third term in the White House. The one notable recent exception was the election of George H.W. Bush following Ronald Reagan’s two terms. But that was because the U.S. economy was humming at a particularly good clip at the time. Such is not the case now.
A second reason is the fact that voters have had it up to here with the ruling class elites of both parties. Trump struck a nerve when he characterized business in Washington as a “rigged game.” Voters believe that. Just look at the success that Bernie Sanders had.
Which brings up a third reason that Trump should win. The Democrats are not united behind Hillary Clinton. The Bernie camp believes they were cheated and with some justification. Leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee made it clear that DNC leadership had its thumb on the scale for Hillary. There’s a chance that some of those Bernie supporters might vote for Trump. There’s an even better chance that many of them will just stay home.
An economy that has grown so far this year at a dismal one percent, chaos in the Middle East, an increasingly belligerent China, episode-after-episode of terrorism at home and in Europe and racially-motivated violence against police officers across the country — should all be playing into Trump’s hand.
And they all still could.
But only if Donald Trump can learn to resist reacting to every single taunt. For there are many, many taunts to come.
Hillary Clinton cannot win this election. But Donald Trump can certainly lose it.