Where Do Things Stand After this Weekend?

I woke up this morning ready to write a piece I had cleverly titled, Donald Trump Lives to Lose Another Day, and yet somewhere between my inspiration and my email drafting I see that David French at National Review has stolen my idea, and written a better piece by the same title.  My preference right now is to just offer a brief, objective view of the state of the race in light of the hot mic scandal (I assure Trump fans, this thing taking on the name “hot mic scandal”, instead of some of the alternatives I imagine it could have taken is a good thing for Trump), but also in light of last night’s debate.  My own take on the substance of Trump’s episode was published yesterday by my friends at National Review.

French’s title captures in a nutshell where we are: Trump did well last night in the debate, in the sense that his objective was to get the debate off the embarrassing incident, and to bring the attack to Hillary Clinton.  Trump’s fans surely loved the red meat of a prosecutorial threat, having Bill Clinton’s accusers in the audience, and the whole “hatred in her heart” schtick.  But Trump didn’t need to make his core fans happy last night – I think we know where they stand.  There would, in a perfect world, be two other groups he needed to touch.  One is that demographic of women and millennials he is performing terribly with that just need to see him as potentially credible presidentially.  I think it is safe to say neither this debate or anything else he can/will do will move this needle (and this was true before the hot mic scandal blew up his campaign as well).  But I do think last night stopped the bleeding with the other demographic: The non-Trumpian Republican conservative class who had begrudgingly signed on with him, yet after two weeks of an atrocious first debate, a 3am tweet storm, a slew of bizarro world comments, and of course the video/audio opening the world up to, you know, “locker room talk,” were jumping ship.  If I were a betting man I would say Trump likely halted the narrative of campaign implosion this week, and in that sense last night was a positive for him.

Can Trump still win?  I think most people know in their hearts and minds the real answer to that question, which is why people on my side of the ideological divide do not answer it with polls, data, or any empirical support for his viability, but rather with reminders of Hillary’s existential threat to the free world.  I get called a snob when I use words like “prescriptive” and “descriptive,” and yet I don’t know how else to focus people on the difference between what is and what ought to be.  My position is very, very clear.  I will celebrate on election night whoever loses.  And I will mourn on election night whoever wins.  Deep down, I believe four years if Trump would assure forty years of Democrat reign.  Also deep down, I think Hillary may not make it through four years herself (she is a walking case for impeachment from dusk till dawn).  But I don’t wish to currently litigate why Republicans should be repulsed by this person our party has nominated, and I assure you the reasons for that go far, far beyond his disdain for marriage fidelity and personal decency.  I am only talking about the “descriptive” – can Trump win – will Trump win – not, should we want him to win.

I think the answer is rather obvious.  If a tape or release appears showing Hillary in a meeting taking a bribe or personally arranging for one of Bill’s friendly female visitors, obviously things could change.  But more or less Hillary has four weeks of running out the clock to do, and all of this was true before the disgusting hot mic incident.  I hate for the facts to get in the way of a little Hillary-hatred, but all of the polls had violently pulled her way and away from Trump well before he showed the world his regard for Melania.  She had opened up a five point lead nationally, and the betting odds now show 81%.  Yep, 81%.  He had pulled close in Colorado and how is getting trounced there again.  And most devastating to Trump, he went from two months of being slightly ahead in Ohio to being down 4%.  He right now leads in no state whatsoever that Romney lost.  Sorry, but you can do what you want with this.  Did I mention this was all before the furniture shopping began?

So why do I think Trump won the debate last night?  Because I think a story about him threatening prosecution of Hillary will help him, not hurt him, despite what leftists like Chuck Todd and Martha Raddutz declare.  And more importantly, I suspect the avalanche of Republican leaders – Senators, Governors, etc. – who jumped off the Trump train Saturday and Sunday – will stop.  My prayer is that any Republican Senator will do whatever they have to in order to win their seat, and I can’t imagine a situation where distancing themselves from Trump would not serve that aim.  That aspect of this election is what we should be spending the bulk of our time with – down ballot ramifications.  Overall, Trump benefitted from a bizarre Hillary strategy last night to mostly just let Trump pillage her, and he benefits from the fact that the bar could not have been lower after debate #1 if he was a third-grader playing limbo.

I do not know where the Senate will be in 30 days.  I do know that these 30 days cannot end quickly enough, and with it the most despicable political period of my lifetime.  In the meantime, brace yourself.  The smart money says, when it comes to leaks and hot mics and all this Jerry Springer stuff, we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet …