With 96 days to go for the US general election, Donald Trump’s own party roiled by internal turmoil is desperately searching for ways to ditch the loudmouth GOP nominee.
Although Clinton’s poll numbers are rising, the contest looks close; yet Trump’s campaign is a mess. Clinton’s poll numbers are up on a post-convention bounce and generously helped by Trump shooting himself in the foot over remarks against a slain Muslim soldier. Clinton is sitting on piles of cash and audacious ad spends in swing states, Trump’s social media led campaign was good for the primary season, it’s the real thing now and there’s only so much free speech on free platforms can do for you in the mother of all elections.
As Trump piles on self inflicted blunders, his latest one twisting a knife into the emotions of a slain soldier’s family, many conservatives are preparing to take an extreme political step - vote for Hillary Clinton. Last week has been a string of stunning political errors by Trump. All along his bruising campaign, bad publicity has only made Trump more unstoppable. Has it finally caught up? Has Khizr Khan already cost Trump the White House?
Right from the half-way mark during the primaries when it became clearer that it is going to be Clinton versus Trump, several patterns became obvious - this election will not be about the swing voter, it’s more likely that it could be a landslide. All this precisely because of the pile of bile that Trump represents. You love him or hate him, there’s no middle ground that he allows the swing voter to occupy.
Although it’s August, the idea that a non-Trump may be the GOP candidate on 8 November refuses to stub out.
After an unusually bad week for Trump, people are asking yet again: Will Trump pull out and what happens if he does?
Influential Republicans close to Trump are questioning whether Trump can stay at the top of the Republican ticket without disaster striking the party which has stakes beyond a single election. Paul Ryan’s potential 2020 run is one example.
Partymen by the dozen in both red states and blue are scooting from being seen on-stage with the most disliked nominee ever in GOP history.
While "dump Trump" calls have continued since the 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney trashed the billionaire's candidacy early this year, it is unclear whether the trickle of defections to Clinton's camp will become a flood after a series of bad stumbles by Trump.
A nightmare 48 hours for the embattled Republican flagbearer — he deepened his public feud with the parents of a fallen Muslim American soldier, refused to back House Speaker Paul Ryan's re-election bid and used crass language while accepting a supporter's Purple Heart as a gift — has highlighted Republicans' concerns.
Trump allies openly upbraided their candidate Wednesday for his inability to stay on message, demanding more self-discipline by the political neophyte. "He has not made the transition to being the potential president of the United States," former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a loyal Trump defender, told Fox Business Network on Wednesday.
In another interview, he warned that Trump will hand Clinton the election unless he changes tack.
"Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is," Gingrich told The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, a Fox News poll showed Clinton with a 10 point lead over Trump, at 49 to 39 percent. Just a month ago that figure stood at six points, Fox News said. Trump sought to dispel panic earlier Wednesday, reassuring voters at a Daytona Beach, Florida rally that his campaign has "never been so well united." A growing list of Clinton converts suggests otherwise.
Yet, Trump’s lead over Clinton with high-school-educated whites continues to rise. He could win this group better than anyone since Ronald Reagan in 1984. But 30 years ago, this population was 62 percent of the electorate; now they are around 34 percent. In other words, he needs the non whites whom he has been insulting and getting thrown out of his wild rallies.
Trump 'demagoguery' undermines America
Prominent tech executive Meg Whitman became the latest high-profile conservative to throw her support behind the former secretary of state, saying in a statement Wednesday that "Donald Trump's demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character."
Whitman is chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and used to be CEO of eBay. She spent some 140 million US dollars of her own money in an unsuccessful run for California governor in 2010.
Her defection comes amid deep concerns at the top of the Grand Old Party about Trump, after a seemingly never-ending stream of controversies that include the nominee urging Russia to hack into Clinton's emails.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus backs Trump, but on Wednesday Priebus was being described as "incredibly upset" that the New York real estate mogul refused to endorse Ryan's congressional re-election campaign.
Trump's running mate Mike Pence sought to assuage concerns, but his Wednesday endorsement of Ryan for re-election suggested he and Trump were not on the same page.
"I talked to Donald Trump this morning about my support for Paul Ryan and our longtime friendship," Pence told Fox News. "He strongly encouraged me to endorse Paul Ryan in next Tuesday's primary and I'm pleased to do it."
Meanwhile, Whitman joins other key Republicans who have announced their backing for Clinton.
Richard Armitage, who served as deputy secretary of state for George W. Bush and deputy secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, defected in June.
Brent Scowcroft, respected national security advisor to two Republican presidents, endorsed Clinton, as did former Republican senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota, who cited Clinton's support for stricter gun laws.
Bush Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, announced in a Washington Post column that he will vote for Clinton in the hope she can "do the things necessary to strengthen our economy."
"To my Republican friends: I know I'm not alone."
Richard Hanna on Tuesday became the first Republican member of Congress to cross the aisle and publicly back Clinton. Trump "is unfit to serve our party and cannot lead this country," Hanna wrote in a column for Syracuse.com.
While Hanna said he disagrees on many issues with Clinton, "she stands and has stood for causes bigger than herself for a lifetime. That matters."
One Republican, Reagan administration official Doug Elmets, went so far as to announce his support for Hillary Clinton at last week's Democratic National Convention, where he told delegates: "I knew Ronald Reagan, I worked for Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan."
Other Republican stalwarts, while stopping short of endorsing Clinton, are shunning Trump or the party itself.
Top Jeb Bush advisor Sally Bradshaw said she is leaving the Republican Party to become an independent.
And House Republican Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a US Air Force veteran, told CNN he woke up Wednesday realizing that Trump has "crossed so many red lines" that he can no longer support the nominee, "no matter what the political cost to me.”
Given all that we know, November 8 will answer two questions: Did Khizr Khan cost Trump the election? Is there something called bad publicity? Unlikely that both the answers may be negative.
All this only if Trump doesn't get dumped right now.
With inputs from agencies