Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rove: Neither Side Will Win The GOP Civil War

Trump spent the week bashing his own party. Paul Ryan should have simply kept mum.

By Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
October 13, 2016

Donald Trump has opened a civil war with Republicans. After video of Mr. Trump’s vulgar sex talk was published last week, Speaker Paul Ryan said he was “sickened by what I heard.” On Monday, during a conference call with House Republicans, Mr. Ryan said that he would no longer defend Mr. Trump or campaign with him.

This was perhaps unwise because it was unnecessary. Mr. Ryan should have simply promised his nervous caucus that he would devote all his energy, time and resources to holding the GOP’s House majority. He could have left his views about Mr. Trump unsaid. His caucus would have been elated, controversy avoided, and Mr. Trump left without an excuse for a new outburst.

Instead, Mr. Trump spent Tuesday in a Twitter tirade. He accused Republicans of being disloyal and weak. He announced his liberation, proclaiming that “the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.” Who knew that The Donald we have been seeing was the restrained version?

Striking at the party wasn’t the best move for Mr. Trump. If he wants to be elected and to govern successfully, he should not have attacked congressional Republicans. He has little standing to preach party loyalty, having only recently joined the GOP. He funded Democrats for decades and made a special effort to elect Nancy Pelosi speaker in 2006.

If Mr. Trump wants a Republican Senate to approve his nominees and a Republican House to pass his agenda, then he should give GOP candidates the freedom to do what they must to win. Almost every one of them is polling ahead of him. He needs their coattails to get to the White House.

Mr. Trump’s comments undoubtedly thrilled the “alt-right” leaders of his campaign, who want to burn down the Republican Party perhaps even more than they want Mr. Trump to win. But swing voters are less than impressed. As of Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton’s lead had grown to 6.2 points, 48% to 41.8%, in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

It’s notable that Mr. Trump has lost more ground in recent weeks than Mrs. Clinton has gained. Before the first debate her lead was much smaller, 46.6% to 44.3%. Mr. Trump’s showing in that debate, while lousy, was probably less damaging than his inexplicable actions over the next five days, when he continually disparaged a former Miss Universe whom Mrs. Clinton had used to bait him.

By the time of the second debate this past Sunday, Mrs. Clinton had widened her lead, 47.5% to 42.9% That face-off was like no other. From the moment they marched on stage, refusing to shake hands, until the final question forced them to say something nice about each other, it was brutal.

Expectations for Mr. Trump were incredibly low: Simply because he didn’t commit televised hara-kiri, he lived to fight another day. Expectations for Mrs. Clinton were unrealistically high. She was supposed to deliver a knockout blow, but it never came.

So much is thrown at viewers during a 90-minute debate that the aftermath—the media coverage that follows and the campaign responses—can be even more important in crystallizing voter perceptions. Yet after the second debate, Mr. Trump again picked a fight, this time with a Twitter-storm about his own party.

By late-evening Tuesday, when Mr. Trump gave a speech in Panama City, Fla., he was back on the teleprompter. He talked effectively about how the latest WikiLeaks dump of Clinton emails showed her to be untrustworthy, slippery and out-of-touch with ordinary Americans. But the speech was overshadowed by his tweets and remarks that morning and afternoon.

This is simply how the news cycle works. On each of the days remaining in the campaign, the candidates can share one thought—basically a sentence or two—that might stick with the public. Voters weave these individual threads into a comparative narrative, which helps them decide whom to support.

It would be a grave mistake for Mr. Trump to aim each day’s valuable thought at his base. With less than a month to go, he is far behind. His path to Electoral College victory has become even narrower than before. The only way for him to win the White House is to pry swing voters away from Mrs. Clinton and to convert undecided voters. This means dominating as many of the 26 days left by criticizing her on real issues and offering constructive change for America, not merely red meat for his base.

However, Mr. Trump seems to be considering a different approach: He tweeted Tuesday that “disloyal” Republicans “don’t know how to win,” adding, “I will teach them!” Lashing out may be cathartic, but it could also make Mr. Trump the big loser on Nov. 8.

Article Link To The Wall Street Journal: