S.E. Cupp: What plagues the miserable Trump campaign
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In Washington D.C., the cheers were audible.
With the announcement of Corey Lewandowski’s firing from the Trump campaign, Republicans on Capitol Hill applauded what they see as a step in the right direction for a campaign that is failing to match Hillary Clinton in the polls, on the airwaves and in fundraising.
“It’s probably a recognition that they’re going to turn the page in terms of their strategy,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota told Politico. “They’re trying to demonstrate that they sort of get it. And that they’re going to have to start moving in a different direction.”
That direction, many Republicans hope, is toward civility, sanity and seriousness. And they are hoping in Paul Manafort, Lewandowski’s formidable enemy within the Trump campaign, they are getting a much more predictable candidate.
“We know him pretty well,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah about Manafort. “He’s a steady, dependable fellow who will bring the histrionics down to a more acceptable level.”
But will he? Trump himself told Matt Lauer after firing Lewandowski that he still planned to be himself on the campaign trail, and blasted Clinton for reading off scripts.
Indeed, it’s naïve to presume that Lewandowski — who performed the job of Trump’s communications’ muscle, at times literally pushing reporters around — was the primary liability on Trump’s campaign. That mantle still resides comfortably and irrecoverably with Trump himself.
Time after time, Trump has promised to become more presidential and less antagonistic toward members of his own party, and time after time he has broken that promise in spectacular fashion.
So, he is either a snake oil salesman, peddling himself as the fraudulent product that will not cure anything but short-term boredom, or he is incapable of becoming the disciplined, unifying candidate he insists he will be.
And this, in part, is why the Republican Party is divided on their nominee. According to a brand new CNN/ORC poll, 48 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say they would prefer someone else to Trump. This, less than a month before the party festoons him at its national convention.
But it’s the mealy-mouthed, reluctant endorsements of Trump by many Republican leaders that are also keeping the party from unifying.
Voters know who’s with Trump wholeheartedly. Sarah Palin, Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Voters also know who’s not with Donald Trump. Bill Kristol, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney.
But the majority of Republicans in leadership roles have offered up something in between — which, to voters, is at best a confusing and at worst a cowardly effort to simultaneously preserve some dignity while also supporting their party. Not surprisingly, splitting the baby isn’t working.
Earlier this month Bob Dole decided it would be helpful to announce his sort-of support for Trump.
“I have an obligation to the party. I mean, what am I gonna do? I can’t vote for George Washington, so I’m supporting Donald Trump.” Gee, thanks.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, in a now-familiar refrain, promised to “support the GOP nominee” but added Trump was “a work in progress.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain assured voters that they can support Trump despite his crazy ideas because he can’t actually implement them. “We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We’re not Romania.” Oh, good.
All of these begrudging endorsements are supposedly meant to unite the party. But in what world is couching your support in caveats and criticism going to inspire unity?
Having it both ways isn’t getting to those undecided Republican voters who aren’t sure what they’ll do in November. It isn’t encouraging Trump skeptics to get on board, nor is it chasing back Trump supporters.
If Republican leaders truly want party unity, they’ll take an actual position — either with Trump completely or against him completely — so that Republican voters have a clear choice.
No one is motivated to go out to the polls by “We’re not Romania.” Quit couching, start campaigning.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
This column originally appeared in the New York Daily News.
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