Mark this date down. Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard and I actually agree.
It's not that the media have failed to give Trump enough credit; we’ve given his supporters too much. We assumed that at some point they'd embarrassed to be associated with him: If not his slander of Mexican immigrants, then perhaps his mockery of POWs; if not his kindergarten Twitter insults, then perhaps his sad and compulsive boasting; if not his incomprehensible answers to substantive questions at the debate, then maybe, finally, his juvenile and misogynistic put-down of the female moderator.
Those who still remain Trump supporters seem to be beyond shame. It doesn’t matter that they’re angry about the incompetence in Washington. Turning to Trump to solve the problems in Washington is like turning to an ape to fix a broken refrigerator. It’s embarrassing, but rather than embarrassment, the Trump followers will feel more anger and their pose will shift from self-righteousness to victimhood. And many of them will dig in further.
More worrisome, for conservatives and for the country, so will Trump. As he’s abandoned by more rational beings, Trump, a man of deep and evident insecurity, will need these remaining supporters as validation that it’s the world that’s gone crazy, not him. They will encourage him to march on, guided by the misapprehension that there are many more behind them, perhaps hard to see, but following in the distance nonetheless. Trump will tout this support and insist, unconstrained by reality, that he can win. (This is the man who continues to say Hispanics love him and will support him, despite polls showing his favorability among Hispanics in the mid-teens).
As Republicans scramble to distance themselves—with many candidates denouncing his remarks about Kelly, as they had his mockery of John McCain—Trump will feel the swelling pride of a man whose bluff is being called. Treat me nicely or I’ll leave, he warned repeatedly.
This is why Bret Baier’s first question Thursday was the single most important question of the debate. Although Trump had left open the possibility of running third party, in the days leading up to the debate he had backed away from those threats. “I’m pretty confident in the answers I’ve gotten from him,” Sean Hannity said Wednesday night. “I’ve asked him a few times. I’m pretty confident he’ll never run third party.”
Less than twenty-four hours later, Trump reversed himself again, raising his hand to show he wouldn't pledge support for the eventual Republican nominee. When Baier asked if Trump meant to be conveying what he seemed to be saying, Trump responded, twice: “I fully understand.”
Trump threatened to leave if Republicans treated him badly. Now, because he’s a churl and a buffoon, Republicans have no choice but to treat him badly.
It’s foolish to pretend to know how it all ends. But one thing is certain: It won’t end well.
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