Donald Trump is imploding:
As Donald Trump took the stage in a community college theater on Thursday night, something was off.There is much, much more at the link.
The usually punctual executive was nearly 40 minutes late. His voice was hoarse, his hair mussed, his tone defensive. He promised to take questions from the audience but instead launched into a 95-minute-long rant that at times sounded like the monologue of a man grappling with why he is running for president — and if it's really worth it or not. Even for a candidate full of surprises, the speech was surprising.
He scoffed at those who have accused him of not understanding foreign policy, saying he knows more about Islamic State terrorists "than the generals do." He took credit for predicting the threat of Osama bin Laden and being right on the "anchor baby situation," a position he says "these great geniuses from Harvard Law School" now back. He uttered the word "crap" at least three times, and promised to "bomb the s---" out of oil fields benefiting terrorists. He signed a book for a guy in the audience and then tossed it back at him with a flip: "Here you go, baby. I love you."
Trump called Republican rival Carly Fiorina "Carly whatever-the-hell-her-name-is," accused Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton of playing the "woman's card" and said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is "weak like a baby." He then devoted more than 10 minutes angrily attacking his chief rival, Ben Carson, saying the retired doctor has a "pathological disease" with no cure, similar to being a child molester.
...Trump appeared to unravel on stage Thursday evening before a crowd of roughly 1,500 in Fort Dodge, a small industrial town 100 miles northwest of Des Moines. Many in the crowd were community college students who have never voted in a presidential election, along with teachers, local politicians and a number of farmers from the area. Rather than sticking to his usual, tidy 60 minutes, Trump kept going and going.
...At first, the audience was quick to laugh at Trump's sharp insults and applaud his calls to better care for veterans, replace the Affordable Care Act and construct a wall along the Mexican border. But as the speech dragged on, the applause came less often and grew softer. As Trump attacked Carson using deeply personal language, the audience grew quiet, a few shaking their heads. A man sitting in the back of the auditorium loudly gasped.
...After 95 minutes, Trump drew to a sudden but long-awaited end. Gripping the podium, he promised to unify the country and win. He also wondered aloud if he should just move to Iowa and buy a farm.
What I find really interesting about this meltdown—especially with its protracted attack on Ben Carson, which included a demonstration of how a belt buckle could not stop a knife and a barking rhetorical asking "How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"—is that it is, at its essence, a protracted identification of all the people who are to blame for Trump's inevitable loss of the nomination.
His entire campaign has been built on scapegoating, on blaming other people and other nations for what he sees as the US' woes, and now he is setting up the scapegoats for his fall.
(As an aside: Many people who go on to win their party's nomination aren't leading at this point, and the front runner can change many times during the course of a primary. So it's not at all certain that he wouldn't retake the lead at some point, but Trump seems decidedly uncomfortable anywhere but the lead.)
Trump's favorite insult is "loser." It seems unlikely he's fixing to go out of this thing as a loser. Instead, as he slides out of the lead, he's much more likely to quit, to decide he doesn't want to run for president anyway, SO THERE.
Maybe there's not even any point to running, he muses. The cards are just stacked against him, you see.
The country is going to hell, Carson is a compulsive liar, Rubio is pathetic, Clinton plays the "woman's card," the media are scum, and US voters are stupid.
Poor guy. Can you blame him for wanting to quit?
He certainly hopes you won't. He hopes you will blame literally everyone and anything else.
So, yeah. He's imploding. But he's imploding in a very specific way—in a way that will appeal to his supporters who have enthusiastically embraced his message of scapegoating from Day One. It's not Donald Trump's fault. It's that black candidate, that Latino candidate, that female candidate, the media, stupid people, Mexico, China.
Trump will go out the same way he came in: On a cresting wave of racism and misogyny.