Donald Trump is denying allegations of sexual assault and calls them a “coordinated and vicious attack” from the media and Hillary Clinton campaign. He made the remarks during a rally in the battleground state of Florida. (Oct. 13)
WASHINGTON — It looks like Donald Trump is going to finish his presidential campaign the same way he started, attacking his rivals — Republicans as well as Democrats — and basically running as a party of one.
So while Democrat Hillary Clinton’s election would lead to “the almost total destruction of our country as we know it,” Trump now says House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans are disloyal, weak, and undercutting his election bid.
“There’s a a whole sinister deal going on,” Trump said this week, while criticizing Ryan during a speech in Ocala, Fla.
Trump’s critics within the Republican Party say he not only has hurt himself but is setting up the party as a whole for a potential defeat in the Nov. 8 election.
“He’s already lost, and now he’s essentially settling perceived slights and grievances,” said Republican consultant Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Williams likened Trump to a “wounded animal,” one that is “just lashing out at everything in his field of vision.”
A day after a parade of women accused Trump of unwanted sexual advances — and less than a week after release of a tape in which Trump is heard bragging about his aggressive moves on women — the GOP presidential nominee used a Thursday speech in West Palm Beach, Fla., to claim that the Clinton campaign and the “corporate media” are engaged in a “concerted, coordinated, and vicious” attack on him.
“With their control over our government at stake, with trillions of dollars on the line, the Clinton machine is determined to achieve the destruction of our campaign,” he said.
In many ways, a newly energized scorched-earth approach is back to the future for Trump, a throwback to the announcement of his candidacy in June of last year.
While Trump’s attack on Mexican “rapists” drew most of the attention after that speech, Trump drew no partisan distinctions in arguing that career politicians cannot turn around the country. A former Democrat, Trump said his fellow Republicans were “wonderful people,” but “they don’t know how to bring it about.”
As Trump wrapped up the GOP nomination and turned his attention to “Crooked” Hillary Clinton, many traditional Republicans, who had earlier laughed him off, began to endorse him, some later than others.
Still others held off supporting the real estate mogul amid a variety of controversies. The candidate questioned a federal judge’s fairness because of his “Hispanic heritage.” He argued with a Muslim couple who lost their son in Iraq and spoke out against him at the Democratic convention. He suggested that Clinton be stripped of her armed protection because of her views on gun ownership rights.
Then came the Access Hollywood tape.
After release of that 2005 recording in which Trump could be heard saying he could force himself upon women because of his celebrity status, a number of Republicans withdrew their support and some even called him to end his presidential bid. Ryan, the Republican House speaker, told colleagues he would no longer defend Trump and advised members to take whatever approach they deemed necessary to hold the GOP’s House majority.
Trump responded with scorn.
“Already, the Republican nominee has a massive disadvantage,” he said in his Ocala remarks, “and especially when you have the leaders not putting their weight behind the people.”
On social media, Trump tweeted that “the shackles have been taken off me,” and that he could now “fight for America the way I want to.”
Asked to define those shackles, Trump, speaking with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, cited “some of the establishment people that are weak and ineffective people within the Republican Party, senators and others and Paul Ryan, led to a certain extent by Paul Ryan.”
Republicans who have counted themselves in the “Never Trump” movement say colleagues are learning what they have long known about their nominee.
“Trump was always Trump,” said Tim Miller, the communications director for Jeb Bush’s Republican primary campaign. “Crass, unstable, deceitful — despite brief moments where some in the GOP hoped that he wouldn’t be himself.”
Like other Republicans, Miller predicted that Trump would lose the election, and “I suspect bring a lot of Republicans down with him, unfortunately.”
Political consultant Liz Mair, another “Never Trump” Republican, said the candidate has been “remarkably consistent” in his campaign. People who don’t realize that, she said, include Republicans “who at this point are basically acting like battered wives about to sustain the worst beating they’ve had in a long time because they didn’t get out when they had an opening.”
Democrats are sitting back with a combination of glee and fascination.
David Axelrod, long-time political consultant to President Obama, predicted “lots of recriminations” among the Republicans, including Trump’s “own disaffected base.” He added that he doubts “Trump will graciously accept defeat and ride off into the night” should be lose in November.
“I don’t envy the folks who will have to pick up the pieces,” Axelrod said.
Rich Galen, a strategist who describes himself as a proud member of the Republican establishment, said one goal of the Trump campaign — and of the Clinton campaign — is too depress voter turnout for his opponent.
At this point, Galen said, the odds seem against Trump, and his current rhetoric suggests he is laying the foundation to blame the Republicans for his defeat. Galen cited Trump’s history with critics: “If something goes wrong, he either sues them or demeans them … It’s never his fault.”
Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said Trump looks to be reversing an old sea adage — the ship should go down with the captain.
“It’s hard to say how far down this path he’ll go,” Hemmer said. “There’s a month left, and he has signaled that he’s willing to keep excavating until he finds rock bottom. I suspect there’s a great deal of unpleasantness in store.”
During his remarks in West Palm Beach, Trump said he is leading a movement against a “corrupt” establishment that includes career politicians, the media, and other special interests.
“The Washington establishment and the financial and media corporations that fund it exist for only one reason,” he said. “To protect and enrich itself.”
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