WASHINGTON — The cover of a New York tabloid this morning shows a cartoon of a Republican elephant mascot in a coffin.
Cause of death: Donald Trump, who is now the party’s presumptive nominee.
Such fatalism might be supported by current polls, and by the electoral-college map, and by a fair bit of conventional wisdom. But Trump has already defied expectations.
Here’s how he might hope to do it again in November — and become president of the United States:
1. Soften the language.
The candidate of the Muslim-travel ban and the Mexican wall and the massive disapproval levels among women sounded inclusive in his Indiana victory speech: “(This) is going to become one beautiful, loving country. We’re gonna love each other, we’re gonna cherish each other, we’re gonna take care of each other.”
2. Unify the party.
Lots of Republicans detest Trump. A recent Fox poll said 11 per cent of self-described Republicans would vote for Hillary Clinton against him. But Trump got some good news. One of his fiercest critics, former rival Bobby Jindal, said he’d fall in line: “I’m still critical of him — but I think he’s better than Hillary Clinton.”
3. Hammer NAFTA.
He’ll hit this hard in states with a declining manufacturing base like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Trump says he’ll inspire a higher voter turnout among disaffected, working-class people. He’s telling them trade deals killed their jobs — including the big one signed by Clinton’s husband. He did it Tuesday: “(Clinton) will be a poor president. She doesn’t understand trade. Her husband signed, perhaps in the history of the world, the single worst trade deal ever done. It’s called NAFTA.”
4. Hammer her ethics.
It’s gonna get nasty. Trump has started calling her ‘Crooked Hillary.’ He’s already referred to her husband’s sex scandals — and tried using these against her. The family foundation’s financial relationships, older business deals that got scrutinized in the 1990s — you’ll hear about them.
5. FBI intervention.
He’s demanding it. Clinton’s use of a home-made email system is under investigation. Trump has more than once called for charges. Earlier this year he said: “(This is) so unfair to the people that have been prosecuted over the years for doing much less than she did. So she’s being protected. But if I win, it is certainly something I will look into.”
6. External events.
The latest quarterly GDP numbers were weak. Only once since 1948 has a party won a third consecutive term — it would become even harder, should there be an economic downturn. Those numbers will be closely watched. National-security fears can also move polls, as they did last year in the U.S. after the Paris attacks.
7. Pray for an upset.
Democrats have a built-in advantage. Of the six biggest states, four have gone Democrat for a quarter-century; one (Florida) is a swing state; and just one (Texas) is solidly Republican. Never mind the electoral-college math — just the popular-vote polls are nasty for Trump right now. Nine of every 10 polls show him losing, while other Republicans fare better against Clinton. He has two difficult potential paths ahead: One involves winning everything Mitt Romney won in 2012, plus taking Florida, Ohio and a couple of other swing states that help him reach 270 electoral college votes. The other possibility? Wrestle away a big Democratic state. Trump insists he can. The polls say he’s losing to Clinton in New York by 16 to 29 points.
Hence the coffin on the cover of today’s New York Daily News.