Donald Trump, you may have noticed, has proved to be an, uh, unorthodox presidential candidate.
That served him well in real estate, on TV and in a record primary field of 17 Republican candidates. He’s now on the precipice of becoming the GOP’s presidential nominee.
All indications are that the billionaire businessman will not become the 24th GOP president. The indications include a wide range of consistent polls showing him almost universally behind the Democrat with even greater unfavorables.
Such surveys, of course, can change.
What seems unlikely to change, however, is Trump’s unpredictable, usually counterproductive behavior. So the growing question is: What if Trump’s idea of winning is electing Hillary Clinton? And devastating the GOP in the process?
We suggested 13 months ago that Trump was a Clinton stalking horse: Intentional or not, Trump’s candidacy will focus attention on him and elect the Democrat whom he’s long supported. Nothing has happened since to change our mind.
Trump and Hillary Clinton are longtime friends and supporters of liberal causes. He’s contributed generously to her campaigns and family foundation and conferred with her husband just before announcing his candidacy.
More significant is Trump’s behavior. He has mocked the handicapped, POWs and a woman’s menstrual cycle, among other crude displays, with no apparent damage.
But Americans aren’t clicking a remote control for a TV pitchman. They mark a secret ballot for the world’s most powerful person. Showmanship and stage presence help, as Ronald Reagan proved. But will they choose as controller of the nation’s nuclear launch codes someone whose trademark phrase is “You’re fired!”?
Since locking up the requisite delegates to hijack the GOP, Trump has done everything possible to torpedo his campaign.
His fundraising is tardy and halfhearted. He’s being battered by millions of dollars’ worth in unanswered negative ads. His campaign staff turmoil dominated June news. Trump’s done little to unify a fractured GOP.
Trump is a master media manipulator. Anytime a primary competitor had good news to tout, Trump created his own story to dominate the news cycle.
But now that Clinton has serial setbacks, Trump routinely diverts attention back to himself. Whether it’s his uncontrollable spotlight addiction or not, the result is to protect the Democrat he allegedly wants to defeat.
Thus Trump forfeits political opportunities to cash in on Clinton troubles. For instance, FBI Director James Comey gave Clinton a gift by declining to prosecute her for the email scandal. But the first 10 minutes of Comey’s on-camera remarks read like a federal indictment for perjury and national security violations.
Trump could also point out that Clinton’s emails were under subpoena when she destroyed them. A goldmine for a genuine opponent.
But no. Instead, Trump dredged up his old remarks about Saddam Hussein being a great terrorist-killer. And reignited attention to his Star of David gaffe by distributing a similar image on a Disney ad.
Wealthy businessmen like longtime Democratic supporter Trump have run as political outsiders before.
Another billionaire businessman named Ross Perot spent lavishly to challenge the Republican establishment and orthodoxy in a 1992 third-party bid that captured 19 percent of the popular vote.
The results of that populist effort served to split the GOP and – oh, look! – elect a Democrat named Clinton. Is it a coincidence that it’s happening again?