A Rigged Outcome? Trump May Be Engineering It Himself

A Rigged Outcome? Trump May Be Engineering It Himself
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It appears that Donald Trump may be rigging himself an exit ramp from the presidential election. His self-created meltdown might suggest he isn't trying to win in November.

Trump's bizarre kamikaze mission has offended many, even some mothers at his Virginia rally on Tuesday when he asked that a crying baby be removed from the audience. In addition to Trump's no-regrets feud with a Gold Star family, his refusal to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte and his criticism of all three of them, Trump accepted the gift of a Purple Heart from a veteran Tuesday, joking that he had always wanted one and that receiving it at his rally was “much easier” than earning it in combat.

And Trump, who lags 23 points behind Hillary Clinton with among female voters in the latest Fox News poll, told USA Today he hoped that if his daughter was sexually harassed she “would find another career or another company” to her employ her.

He’s an all-purpose offender: Military families and decorated veterans, check. Republicans who have endorsed him at risk to their own campaigns, check. Women, including some young moms, check.

Throughout his campaign Trump has rigged his rhetoric to convince his supporters that the fix is in nearly everywhere.  The economy, the political system, the media coverage of the campaign – all "rigged."

This week he suggested Americans pull their 401(k) funds from the stock market and is working to persuade them the results of November 8 election itself will be manipulated. His attempts to delegitimize critical functions of our democracy are highly irresponsible and potentially dangerous, but among the faithful it has been incredibly effective. Rally-goers this week, according to reports from coverage of the Trump campaign, couldn't give a hoot about the latest maelstrom. Some believe that Khizr Kahn is not only a Democratic Party plant but doesn't even live in the United States. This is the new, non-rigged reality.

In Trump's latest hurricane -- the familiar broken glass and splintered wood still hurling through the air from numerous fights, slights, mistakes and outrages -- we have seen something new. Trump declined to express empathy for the family of a fallen soldier or reverence for a Purple Heart, given for honor, valor and selflessness. But it's his refusal to support the House speaker that clearly sent the Republican National Committee chairman into a tailspin.

For months, Reince Priebus has weathered stinging criticism in order to forge party unity for the Republican nominee. Not only had the party's rules, designed after 2012 to help the front-runner win early, benefited Trump, he won the nomination with a higher share of delegates than votes. And not all of the GOP’s steps were taken inadvertently before Trump emerged on the scene: Recall the RNC officials who quelled an insurgency against him on the convention Rules Committee, complete with a four-hour standoff blamed on printer problems, and on the floor of the convention when they scrambled to tamp down dissent.

In the end, however, it wasn’t party officials who “rigged” a speech by Sen. Ted Cruz in which he failed to endorse Trump, it was Trump himself who permitted the speech after seeing the transcript.

The fix wasn't in at the teleprompter either when someone from his wife's staff allowed her to plagiarize First Lady Michelle Obama's speech during the Republican National Convention. The fix wasn't in when Trump decided, during the convention speech by Pat Smith, who lost her son in the Benghazi attacks, to call in to the Bill O'Reilly show. While Smith excoriated Clinton and endorsed Trump, the nominee was ensuring he lit up the Twitterverse with his interview, in which he repeatedly declared that Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who didn't endorse him and wasn't attending the convention, lost the primary campaign “very, very badly.”

No one is making Trump call Clinton “the devil.” And in what might be a last straw for voters, and certainly some donors, no one cooked up the firestorm created when Trump compared his “sacrifices” hiring people for a business he started with money from his dad to the sacrifice of Khizr Kahn, who lost his son in war and who said at the Democratic National Convention that Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Trump also questioned why Ghazala Kahn had stayed silent by her husband’s side while he spoke, suggesting perhaps the Muslim mother wasn't permitted to speak. As night follows day, Republicans quickly distanced themselves from Trump's comments, while insisting that they honored the Kahn family's sacrifice. Predictably and on-cue, Trump lashed out. He said that McCain, a war hero himself, hadn't done enough for veterans; that Ayotte had given him “zero” support; and implied – after giving Paul Ryan's primary challenger a shout-out on Twitter – that Ryan is weak.

The same polls that gave Trump a post-convention bounce and put him ahead just a week ago now show him tanking. He’s already saying they are “phony,” too.

Trump’s allies, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, are apparently desperate to “reset” the campaign and help Trump win a job he may not even want.  Those close to Trump hope that some kind of come-to-Jesus moment can help turn things around, or at least end the implosion.

Can they fix what Trump has rigged?

A.B. Stoddard is associate editor of RealClearPolitics and a columnist.

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