Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Legions of Donald Trump supporters will wake up this morning and find to their relief that their standard-bearer made it through the night without firing up his Twitter account. That may be the best news they could hope for after the Republican nominee’s rough week, one entirely of his own making. Trump entered it riding high on a spate of national and swing state polls that showed him pulling even with or slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton after a comparatively disciplined stretch on the trail. And he pressed his advantage Monday night in their first face-to-face encounter. In the debate’s opening round, Trump set Clinton on her heels by attacking her as a guardian of the status quo and going after her revolving positions on free trade. But he couldn’t sustain his focus. Clinton unleashed a withering counterassault she capped by invoking Trump’s treatment of a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, whom he humiliated publicly for gaining weight after her 1996 win. In the debate’s aftermath, rather than regroup by returning to a proven message, Trump spent the week flailing in the trap Clinton laid for him, continuing to lash out at Machado. His tantrum culminated early Friday morning with a Twitter rant in which he called the newly-minted U.S. citizen “disgusting” and accused her without evidence of having a sex tape.
Republican pols and strategists can do little but watch this self-immolation unfold. Compounding their frustration, a Fox News poll released Friday highlighted what would be an altogether different contest if Trump could marshal some discipline. Those surveyed overwhelmingly identified the economy as the most important issue facing the country today. And they gave Trump a narrow edge on handling it. But voters also named “good judgment in a crisis” as the top quality they’re seeking in the next president — twice the number who said they most valued a leader who “tells it like it is” — and nearly six in ten said they don’t believe Trump has the temperament to serve effectively. Three-quarters said they watched the debate live, and by a 60-22 margin, those who did believe Clinton won. The poll mirrors other surveys since the debate that show Clinton reopening her lead.
Trump is demonstrating little interest in a course correction. He may have kept his Twitter account idle overnight — but not before telling the New York Times in a Friday afternoon interview he plans to attack Clinton for her husband’s infidelities and as an “enabler” of the “the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics.” Trump said he doesn’t need to work harder to prepare for their next debate encounter, on Oct. 9, since any weakness in his first performance owed to issues he was having with his microphone. And he remains bullish on his chances overall: “I have the issues on my side, and I have Trump, which I’ll take.” So will those sharing the ballot with him, whether they’d like to or not.