August

By Susan Estrich

August 19, 2016 4 min read

It took a long time, but every record must eventually get broken, and no one is happier about this one than me: Finally, a presidential campaign has had a worse August than we did in 1988. That year, Michael Dukakis came out of the convention with a lead a mile wide and an inch deep, only to turn his campaign plane around and head back to Massachusetts, where he spent August being governor while his lead disappeared.

When I heard the chairman of the Republican National Committee say that Donald Trump would have been better off going on vacation after the convention, I realized the mark had been passed.

Donald Trump has had the worst August of any modern nominee, God bless him.

And that was before he fired well-respected Republican political consultant Paul Manafort, who has run all manner of campaigns, and replaced him with the executive chairman of Breitbart, the right-wing scream sheet.

Who needs a guy who knows how to run campaigns when you have a guy who really knows how to write headlines?

Instead of stopping me in the market to ask me if Trump could win (thankfully, that line of questioning has ended), people ask me how it was that someone so clearly and completely unsuited to the office could have gotten so close — obit time in August.

And you won't convince me it's too early, that it's just spring training, not when you are talking about a candidate who may be a household name but no one actually knows all that much about. What voters are learning in August will shape how they view Trump on the ballot.

This is a man who picks a fight with the family of a Muslim soldier, and then just can't bring himself to apologize. I'm willing to bet money that was not Manafort's idea.

This is a man who refuses to endorse the Republican House speaker — definitely not Manafort's strategy.

How about inviting Vladimir Putin to hack into State Department files? Manafort? No.

There have been many smart people trying to guide Trump the nominee in the hopes of at least salvaging some victories down-ticket. There is no shortage of people who would tell him that it is a bad idea to pick a fight with the family of a dead Muslim soldier. This part of politics is not rocket science.

That Trump did so proves the most troubling thing of all about a man who got so close: He listens to no one. He thinks he knows better than anyone. He thinks in headlines, so he's hired a headline writer to write his campaign. Leadership as Twitter. The heck with those Washington insiders, of all stripes, who mostly keep the country going, even if it is too often to the highest bidder. At least they understand that governing is not a reality show, and that what a nominee for president says does matter.

Fortunately, what had to happen to Trump is finally happening — too late to save the Republican Party, but with time to spare for the general election. Has Trump sunk too soon? I don't think so. The kind of harm he has inflicted on himself this month is not going to be cured by a smart line at a debate.

What Trump needed to do this summer was convince people he really could be president, that he belonged in that small group of people who Americans can imagine in the White House. What he did was just the opposite. Even white men are turning on him. Imagine: Hillary Clinton closing the voting gender gap. Only the Donald could make that happen.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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