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Donald Trump is still standing, but his wounds are fatal

Supporters saw Sunday’s debate as a big win. There just aren’t enough of them left for it to matter.


 
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their presidential town hall debate with at Washington University in St. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their presidential town hall debate with at Washington University in St. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Figuratively speaking, Hillary Clinton travelled to the debate in her usual motorcade. Donald Trump arrived in a banged-up roadster with smoke pouring from the engine; it careened through the parking lot, hit the curb, and screeched to a halt on the sidewalk.

The last three days have seen some of the most volatile political moments in recent history. Slipping in the polls, Trump was hit with yet another accusation of impropriety. But this time it came with audiotape, and it appeared to be the straw that broke the back of the self-proclaimed billionaire’s campaign for the U.S. presidency.

By Sunday afternoon, more than 160 Republican governors, senators, and Congressmen had abandoned Trump. The chairman of the Republican National Committee had to deny rumors that the party would no longer be funding his race, and would direct their money to down-ticket candidates.

RELATED: An angry, undignified Trump-Clinton debate

Defiant and aggressive, Trump pushed on. The morning of the debate he sent one of his last surrogates, Rudy Giuliani, onto the airwaves to defend and counterattack. But for the most part this just made things worse as TV hosts pushed back with undisguised disdain.

In the hours before the debate, Trump tried one more gambit—appearing at a press conference with three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, and one whose rapist was defended in court by Hillary Clinton when she was assigned as his defence attorney in 1975. The spectacle was jarring, if not obviously effective.

This was the unsettled prologue for what may have been one of the most anticipated political debates in a generation.

It began with a serious-looking Clinton and a subdued Trump refusing to shake hands. With the very first question, the moderators immediately addressed the issue that has preoccupied America over the last 48 hours: Trump’s audiotapes. His defence was to deny and misdirect. He insisted no one respects women as much as he does, and in almost the same breath began to talk about ISIS.

This happened again and again when he was pushed on a hard subject. Whatever the accusation, he would deny having ever said that, then immediately attack Clinton on an entirely unrelated topic. It was artless and reeked of desperation. After 20 minutes, Trump became more flustered, and abandoned his restrained demeanour.

At that point the gloves came off and Trump went after his opponent’s husband. Clinton deftly avoided the jab, quoting Michelle Obama by responding, “When they go low, we go high.” That seemed to hit a nerve and sparked one of the most bizarre moments in the history of televised presidential debates. Trump stared at Clinton menacingly, called her the devil, and promised when elected he would appoint a special prosecutor and send her to jail. The spectacle of an American presidential candidate threatening his opponent with imprisonment was so unexpected and unprecedented it took several minutes to fully grasp what had transpired.

MORE: Catch up on the second presidential debate with our liveblog

In the first part of the debate, Trump paced back and forth behind Clinton, and at some points seemed to loom menacingly over her. But as the debate progressed, he grew less agitated, while Clinton stayed calm throughout.

For her part, Clinton delivered a mostly unexceptional performance. That is not to say it wasn’t good. She handled almost every question professionally, answered with well-considered responses. She made an effort to connect with the audience members asking questions, and she never let Trump rattle her. But there was nothing new in what she said. It was campaign boilerplate, delivered in the same tone and manner that we have seen before. And she didn’t try to land any knockout punches; probably because she couldn’t damage Trump any more than he is already damaging himself.

You want to know who won? Depends on how we score this. Trump arrived as a man in free fall. You could literally watch him regain control over the course of the debate, and he walked off stage under his own power. His campaign could have easily ended on Sunday night. It didn’t, and that has to be seen as a victory for him.

Trump’s supporters, those stalwarts who did not leave him over the course of the weekend, likely saw Sunday’s debate as a big win. Trump clearly played to his base, referencing obscure issues that would only be understood by the most ardent anti-Clinton conspiracy theorists. He attacked the moderators more than once, complaining that they were against him, reinforcing the idea he is up against mainstream media, too. But here’s the problem: there are just not enough of his supporters left for this to matter.

The polls all agree, Trump is losing this race. He needs to win over almost all of the 10 per cent of the voters who are still undecided. Tonight’s debate did not help him. It may have stopped some of the bleeding, but that’s all. Trump’s unlikely pursuit of the presidency is effectively over. He’s fatally wounded. The only question now is whether the Republican Party will die with him.


 

Donald Trump is still standing, but his wounds are fatal

  1. You say…..”Trump’s unlikely pursuit of the presidency is effectively over. He’s fatally wounded. The only question now is whether the GOP will die with him.” That’s not the only story to follow. A story that is out there right now is the Frontline show on September 27 on Clinton’s and Trump’s childhood influences and what makes them tick. This program clearly depicts that Trump’s father raised a monster. A winner or a loser. a braty entitled child. Driven like his father. A con man. And now he is losing and losing big. To a black president and to a female Democrat no less. Who will Trump try and take down with him and why?

    • If Trump does go down, I am less worried about what he will do than what all the people who are waiting to see how he does will react. Before Trump stepped up, there were a lot of Americans thinking about civil war… not a huge number, but enough to worry about. They all went silent, waiting… if he goes down then they have nothing left to wait for. A lot of Trump supporters are saying “he’s our last chance to…” Not entirely sure what they expect him to do, or what they’re afraid will happen if he doesn’t, but that’s the quote I keep reading over and over. What happens when they lose their last chance?

      • Look at what happened when Palin lost in 2008 – she (and, I think, mostly others) helped stir up the whole Tea Party, which was insane. The conservative media started this whole crazy ‘Obama is a fascist socialist who wants to destroy America and the constitution and put you in FEMA concentration camps and should be impeached’ nonsense.

        It led to this.

        I still think there’s a real chance that Trump could get in. And if he does, and the Republicans keep congress, there will be no stopping him from doing whatever the hell he wants.

        If he doesn’t – I think we’ll see a whole new kind of crazy from supporters.

        • Agreed, on all counts, though I’m not overly worried about them going even more politically crazy and less functional, assuming that’s even possible. I’m worried about the guys with guns.

          All those people screaming about letting in the Syrian terrorists are actually drastically increasing the risk of domestic terrorism. It’s not like crazy white guys can’t figure out how to make a bomb. It’s not like it hasn’t already happened. There is so much visceral hatred people are expressing. That isn’t going to just flick off like a switch when they lose. If they lose.

          It’s when those people abandon the political process that times will get particularly interesting. I wonder how Americans will feel about Canadians accepting refugees… when it is the Americans that are fleeing. I’m not saying it will happen, or it’s even likely to happen. But, it could.

  2. I hope you’re right. Sincerely, I do. As President of the US, I don’t think that man would do anything good for anyone but himself. But, you are not the first pundit to write the man off. The polls, usually showing his imminent defeat, have always been proven wrong. The man is still here, still standing, still dangerous.

    That said, I do feel a little less concerned after tonight. There was a strong possibility that he had been working the underdog angle, saving his best attacks to come out fighting at the end. But, it was just more of the same old drivel from him… emails and whatnot. Nothing new, nothing big. Clinton has some obvious targets, still untouched, but Trump doesn’t seem to want to hit them. He could, but if he’s waiting, it’s getting to be a little too late. Let’s all hope he really is too stupid to see them and goes down in a flaming orange ball of fire.

  3. You are missing a very important point. This excuse for a man, this proto-human also threatened Hillary Clinton with jail, should he win. That is the behaviour of a leader from a dictatorial country like North Korea. Trump has just informed the world that he would turn the U.S into a dictatorship to serve his own agenda.
    When he loses the election, I expect that the next thing he will encounter is his family imploding. True Karma for such an evil man.

    • One of the hallmarks of a functioning democracy is the rule of law, and equal application thereof. The current Democratic president has made a mockery of the rule of law, and the Clinton’s are beneficiaries of such mockeries.
      Hillary’s email scandal and the gross mishandling of immunity grants (What possible reason would there be for allowing Cheryl Mills to destroy her own computer after she was granted immunity for her testimony? Why would she have been allowed to sit in on Hillary’s interviews despite not being counsel of record AND a potential witness? The FBI cannot be that incompetent unless they were directed to be by the White House.) leading to a botched investigation are banana republic style stuff. They’re not unlike a current Canadian situation where the PMO is protecting a member of its inner circle while those not living under the umbrella of legal invincibility that is the Liberal Party of Canada are being prosecuted daily for the exact same offence.
      Democracies fall apart when people like the Clinton’s place themselves above the law, as they have done for decades.
      Btw- What’s worse, Slick Willy’s sexual predation of Monica Lewinsky, Ted Kennedy’s cowardly abandonment of Mary Jo Kopechne to drown in an overturned Olds, or Donald Trump’s trash talk in the presence of a hot mike?

      • Btw- What’s worse, Slick Willy’s sexual predation of Monica Lewinsky, Ted Kennedy’s cowardly abandonment of Mary Jo Kopechne to drown in an overturned Olds, or Donald Trump’s trash talk in the presence of a hot mike?

        Only one of these guys is currently running for president. And e just threatened to usurp the Rule of Law and jail his opponent. So much for “One of the hallmarks of a functioning democracy is the rule of law, and equal application thereof” – you’re backing a potential despot.

  4. He’ll get up the morning after the election and start his day with a claim that the fix was in; that between “the establishment elites” and the mainstream media, he never had a chance. He’ll then rally whoever’s left of his supporters to harangue Hillary in particular and the government generally for the next four years.
    He may not come back as a candidate himself in 2020 but you can be sure he will be organizing another campaign against “them”. He will probably include a dying Republican Party in his list of evildoers and could undermine their rebuilding efforts from the sidelines.
    Sadly, even if he isn’t President, he will be able to mess up America for years to come. At least we know the 2016 nominated candidate will never be invited to speak to a Republican convention again!

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