Journalists are pointing out that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “extraordinary display of personal animus” against Republicans leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), is a deliberate campaign strategy that was pushed by Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon -- and encouraged by conservative media for years -- but that it could cost Trump and the GOP the election.
House Republicans Are Renouncing Their Support For Trump Amid His “Extraordinary Display Of Personal Animus” Against GOP, Poor Debate Performance, And Slide In Polls
Wash. Post: GOP “Tumbles Toward Anarchy” As Trump Lashes Out At Paul Ryan For Revoking His Support. An October 10 article in The Washington Post reported that the Republican Party is “tumbl[ing] toward anarchy” in the wake of “an extraordinary display of personal animus” between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), which “destroy[ed] any semblance of party unity.” According to the Post, Trump “publicly lashed out at the speaker” after Ryan announced “he would no longer defend or campaign with Trump,” which many GOP leaders echoed, saying “they could no longer stomach [Trump] because of his character traits and tawdry campaign tactics.” Trump’s “blistering method” of lashing out at his opponents -- both Democrat and Republican -- is being orchestrated by Stephen K. Bannon, campaign chief executive, and former head of Breitbart News, who has “urged Trump not to worry about any cleavage in party ranks and instead to target Clinton,” as the Post reported. All of this during a week when “new national and battleground-state polls showed Trump sliding since Friday’s publication of a 2005 video of him bragging about sexual assault, putting Clinton in position for a possible electoral landslide.” From The Washington Post’s October 10 article:
The Republican Party tumbled toward anarchy Monday over its presidential nominee, as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) cut Donald Trump loose in an emergency maneuver to preserve the party’s endangered congressional majorities.
Ryan’s announcement that he would no longer defend or campaign with Trump prompted biting condemnations from within his caucus and from Trump himself, who publicly lashed out at the speaker.
It was an extraordinary display of personal animus just four weeks before the election, destroying any semblance of party unity behind a nominee who many GOP leaders said they could no longer stomach because of his character traits and tawdry campaign tactics.
New national and battleground-state polls showed Trump sliding since Friday’s publication of a 2005 video of him bragging about sexual assault, putting Clinton in position for a possible electoral landslide. Clinton surged to an 11 percentage point lead nationally in an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll conducted over the weekend.
“It’s every person for himself or herself right now,” former senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said. “The nominee for president is so destructive to everyday Republicans.”
On the stump Monday in Ambridge, Pa., Trump broadened the scope of his critique to taint the entire Democratic Party as sordid, recounting the late senator Edward M. Kennedy’s 1969 car crash that killed a 28-year-old woman on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass.
Trump’s blistering method is being orchestrated by Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign’s chief executive and former head of the acerbic conservative website Breitbart, who has become a near-omnipresent counselor at Trump’s side. He has urged Trump not to worry about any cleavage in party ranks and instead to target Clinton. [The Washington Post, 10/10/16]
Media Figures Point Out That Trump’s “Breitbart Strategy” Of Attacking Everyone, Including His Own Party, Is Driving A GOP Civil War And Could Cost The Party The Election
ABC’s Matthew Dowd: Trump Is “Running The Campaign [Conservative Talk Radio] Want[s] To Run," And It’s Led Him To “A Double-Digit Deficit.” On ABC’s Good Morning America, ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd explained that Trump has “adopted” the campaign “conservative talk radio is saying … they want to run over the last 10 years” but as a result, “he has a double digit deficit that it's going to be very hard for him to come back from.” From the October 11 edition of ABC’s Good Morning America:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): We hear from Donald Trump on the stump last night, he's going to continue with this basic scorched earth approach.
MATTHEW DOWD: Well, yeah, I think he's just adopted sort of what the conservative talk radio is saying the campaign they want to run over the last 10 years. He's running the campaign they want to run. And what it's doing, as we see from the latest polling, is now he has a double-digit deficit that it's going to be very hard for him to come back from. [ABC, Good Morning America, 10/11/16]
CNN’s Carol Costello: “Trump Went Full [Steve] Bannon” But “Is So Blinded By Anger … He Can’t See That The Strategy Just Isn’t Working.” On the October 11 edition of her show, Carol Costello explained that Trump’s tactic of “playing dirty, attacking Clinton, the media, and his fellow Republicans” is “full Steve Bannon,” pointing to The Washington Post’s report that “Bannon is now at Trump's side telling him to ignore the number of Republicans repudiating him.” Guest Paul Singer, Washington correspondent for USA Today, called this development “the fallout of the Republican civil war,” and Costello concluded that “Trump is so blinded by anger and dislike he can't see that the strategy just isn't working.” From the October 11 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello:
CAROL COSTELLO (HOST): All right. That was a very cute moment, right? But then Trump went full Bannon, as in Steve Bannon playing dirty, attacking Clinton, the media, and his fellow Republicans. Bannon is on leave as the executive chairman of Breitbart News and currently serves as the CEO of the Trump campaign. With me now to discuss Washington correspondent for USA Today Paul Singer and CNN political commentator David Swerdlick, he's also assistant editor at The Washington Post. Welcome to both of you. So, David, if you look at Breitbart's front page this morning, Breitbart is a blog, Steve Bannon runs that site. It's like Trump's strategy online for everyone to see, right?
DAVID SWERDLICK: Yeah. No, look, the strategy that we've seen from Donald Trump the past couple of days is what Breitbart readers, what the new right, the alt-right, if you will, wants to hear from him. Look, go back to Friday night. People were openly speculating that Trump might drop out of the race because of the Access Hollywood tape. He was defiant. He was defiant in the debate, in the debate, whether it repulsed Democrats or swing voters. For the Breitbart crowd, the idea of calling Hillary Clinton a hypocrite, the idea of saying the country has run amuck on political correctness, not mincing words with his disagreement with the establishment of both parties, that is what they wanted to hear. And they're banking on this idea that defiance is going to bring Trump's core supporters out to vote and in a turnout election, that's what counts.
COSTELLO: So Paul, just to follow up on what David just said, The Washington Post is reporting that Bannon is now at Trump's side telling him to ignore the number of Republicans repudiating him and to concentrate on targeting Clinton. Here's another example of that this morning. Donald Trump just tweeting this, I guess moments ago, he said, “Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty.” So he's continuing like to attack Paul Ryan, to attack his fellow Republicans, to attack virtually everyone.
PAUL SINGER: Right. What you are seeing is the beginning of -- not even the beginning, but the fallout of Republican civil war. There is a faction of the Republican Party that is basically much more irate and much more angry. I've been referring to them as for a while as the pitch fork-wing of the party that believes we should just throw all the bums out. Get rid of our own leadership, get rid of the Democrats, get rid of Washington. Donald Trump is embracing that group and they've been a very powerful group in Congress, but not a majority. That's the problem. They're a very loud minority. They were able to basically get rid of Speaker John Boehner. But they haven't been able to pass any legislation. So you end up with a situation where in Paul Ryan's case he's doing what he thinks is best for the whole party, particularly protecting the Senate and Republican majority in the House. But there's still this group, this pitch fork group that is outraged. How dare you side with our opposition? How dare you turn your back on Trump? That’s a real problem for the Republicans.
COSTELLO: It's just these attacks one after another, David. It never lets up. Now it's Paul Ryan. Before it was somebody else. It's just -- actually, I know this is going a little deep, but I want to quote something that Richard Nixon said. On the day he resigned, Richard Nixon said, “Always remember, others may hate you but those who hate don't win unless you hate them and then you destroy yourself.” So it almost seems, David, that Trump is so blinded by anger and dislike he can't see that the strategy just isn't working.
SWERDLICK: Well, I think he understands that he can read a poll number, right? And he sees that in the Wall Street Journal poll, for instance, that he's down by 11. Since the first debate and certainly since the Access Hollywood tape, he has lost ground against Clinton nationally and in swing states, but he also as a matter of policy throughout his public life has refused to back down and refused to apologize when he's been cornered. My colleagues, Bob O'Harrow and Shawn Boburg reported about this in June. This is something that Trump does. It's not random. He believes the right strategy in almost any instance is to push forward, not to be contrite but never to acknowledge he's made mistakes. And when you have a situation with Ryan, right, he sees Ryan as standing in his way, challenging him when he believes the party should be folding in behind him as the nominee. And frankly with Ryan, I have to say, Carol, Ryan, this is partly in a situation of his own making. He's in a lose-lose because he's got to protect the members of the Republican caucus of the House of which he's the leader. And at the same time as one of the leaders of the party, he can't just, completely throw Trump in the trash, but, this is partly of his own making. There was a time in this race, back in March when Mitt Romney said full throatedly, don't do this, Republicans, when other Republican major figures could have gone that way. But they got behind Trump and now this is where they are with him as the sort of guy who's falling in the polls but defiant against his own party members. [CNN, Newsroom with Carol Costello, 10/11/16]
Politico’s Jake Sherman: Trump’s “Breitbart Crew” Is “Hurting Republicans” And “He’s Showing No Signs Of Turning This Around.” On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Politico’s Jake Sherman recalled a conversation with a senior House Republican leader who said Trump “just can’t keep talking to the Breitbart crew and the Fox News crew” because his attack strategy is “hurting Republicans across the country.” Sherman added that Trump is “showing no signs of turning this around,” saying that “really concerns” House Republicans. From the October 11 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
MIKE BARNICLE: Jake, can you measure the difference between the angst over the future of the House, whether it's going to be a Republican majority, a Democratic majority, from today -- as you just indicated, the worry -- as opposed to, say, a week or ten days ago? Has it grown enormously, slowly?
JAKE SHERMAN: I think when the House was in a couple weeks ago before they recessed until after the election, the Republicans that I talked to, basically they were saying that they thought they could keep their losses to single digits. So to give comparison, the House -- Republicans need to lose 30 seats to lose the House. So, I think there's been a massive sea change over the last couple days based on the video, based on the debate, and I was talking to a senior House Republican leadership aide yesterday who said this guy just can't keep talking to the Breitbart crew and the Fox News crew. He can't. And that's hurting Republicans across the country, and he's showing no signs of turning this around, and that is what really concerns people at the NRCC and in people in House Republican leadership. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 10/11/16]
CNN’s Dana Bash: Trump Is Adopting “The Breitbart Strategy” To Wage “Absolute War” “Against His Own Party,” Which Means The GOP “Could Completely Crumble.” On CNN’s At This Hour, Dana Bash reported that Trump's decision to adopt Bannon’s strategy “to just go at it against the establishment ... means that [the Republican Party] could completely crumble at the election.” From the October 11 edition of CNN’s At This Hour With Berman And Bolduan:
DANA BASH: And I've been texting and in communication with Republicans this morning, who are worried that what he's doing is he's taking, for lack of a better way to say it, the Breitbart strategy -- the former head of Breitbart is now running his campaign -- to just go at it against the establishment. And what that means in practical terms -- could mean in practical terms is messages being sent to the base that don't support these down ballot tickets. You're already seeing some of those suggestions creeping into the tweets and other messages from some of his surrogates and others. That is an absolute war. It's not just a battle. It is a war. And it will basically mean that this party could completely crumble at the election. Now, we'll see what happens, but that certainly looks like the kind of fight that Donald Trump is now setting up this morning. Again, against his own party. [CNN, At This Hour With Berman and Bolduan, 10/11/16]
BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray: Trump’s “Full Breitbart” Strategy Is To “Fight To The End” For His Anti-Establishment Base, Even Though It “Cannot Deliver Him The White House.” BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray reported that instead of trying “to salvage his candidacy,” Trump signaled at the debate “his objective to fight to the end as the champion” of the “hard core of his base, despite the fact that they cannot deliver him the White House.” Gray pointed out that some of Trump’s attacks were “unlikely to resonate with many people beyond loyal readers of Breitbart and viewers of Fox News.” From the October 10 article:
Ahead of one of the highest-stakes debate situations ever after tape emerged showing Trump making grossly sexist remarks that are so damaging that many top Republicans have abandoned him, Trump could have tried to salvage his candidacy by trying to be somewhat conciliatory, pivoting to his signature policy proposals, and avoiding getting into the mud while profusely apologizing for the content of the tape — something many Republicans have called on him to do.
He chose a different path. On Sunday night, Trump signaled that his objective now is to fight to the end as the champion of the populist nationalist movement he has spearheaded and which propelled him to the Republican nomination. Trump’s revanchist positioning is a sign he’s retreated to pleasing the hard core of his base, despite the fact that they cannot deliver him the White House; a performance like this won’t bring on board the voters Trump must persuade in order to win.
Trump began the night by holding a livestreamed meeting with several of Bill Clinton’s accusers, signaling that he would bring up a subject that many Republicans have urged him not to. He accused Clinton’s campaign of starting birtherism, bringing up Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal twice — a reference unlikely to resonate with many people beyond loyal readers of Breitbart and viewers of Fox News. Trump told Clinton she had “hate in her heart.” He threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and even jail her after the election.
And part of Trump’s retrenchment to his base — and the intra-party, establishment vs. anti-establishment battles on which it thrives — means attacking other Republicans. Over the weekend, he tweeted critically several times of the Republicans who have abandoned him, and even retweeted an account referring to them as traitors. It’s hard to overstate how unusual this is for a major party nominee to do at all, not least a month before the election. [BuzzFeed, 10/10/16]
Slate’s Jim Newell: Trump “Won The Race For President Of The Breitbart Comments Section,” But “He’s Supposed To Be Trying To Win Something Else.” Slate’s Jim Newell wrote that to Trump core supporters, his performance at the second presidential debate “was easily his best,” but Newell pointed out that “Trump’s most memorable sound bites” were meant to appeal to those core supporters and not to a wider audience. As Newell explained, Trump “won the race for president of the Breitbart comments section a long time ago. He’s supposed to be trying to win” the presidency. From the October 10 article:
What were Trump’s most memorable sound bites, and to whom were these supposed to appeal?
Trump referred to Bernie Sanders’ support of Clinton as Bernie signing on “with the devil,” which is to say he referred to Clinton as the devil. He trotted out some oldies—Benghazi, “basket of deplorables.” He said Clinton has “tremendous hate in her heart … she’s got tremendous hatred.” He bitched at the moderators incessantly, saying it was “three on one” against him and railing about unfair time constraints. Was he really mad about his allotted time? Or was he just reaching into his primary-season muscle memory, where whining about the refs was always a savvy move? He said—remarkably—that Clinton would “be in jail” if he were in charge of the country.
There was also the thing where he invited Clinton accusers from times past to attend the debate and psych Clinton out. Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones were in the debate hall, and Trump finally got in his digs about Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual crimes over the years. That was his big “play” for the night.
And that play almost certainly made the lives of the Breitbart comments section and the segment of the country that has believed and will continue to believe every awful thing ever floated about the Clintons until the day they die. Trump’s performance wasn’t his worst; to his core supporters, it was easily his best. But he won the race for president of the Breitbart comments section a long time ago. He’s supposed to be trying to win something else. [Slate, 10/10/16]
Wash. Post’s Michael Gerson: Trump’s Debate Performance “Was Perfectly Tuned” For “The Talk-Radio Hothouse” But “Appalling” To Everyone Else. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson wrote that Trump adopted lines of attack that have “been normalized in far-right discourse for decades” and were appropriate for “the most partisan and polarized portion of the right,” but “appalling, contemptible, shameful, squalid, vile” to the rest of the country. Gerson added that “Trump and his advisers must know that the conservative talk-radio audience, and the Republican primary electorate, is different from a national electorate” and that by doubling down on this strategy he “achieved the worst possible outcome for the GOP.” From the October 10 article:
What Trump actually did was ensure that hardcore conservatives stay with him until the end of his political journey, when Republicans begin the search for survivors and examine the charred black box. Trump’s performance was perfectly tuned to make a loyal Rush Limbaugh listener burst out in “Hell, yeah!” Put Juanita Broaddrick in the audience? Threaten to jail your opponent? Throw WikiLeaks in her face? Blame her for the death of Capt. Humayun Khan in Iraq? Dismiss all the fuss about sexual predation as locker-room talk? Hell, yeah!
This kind of thing has been normalized in far-right discourse for decades. To the most partisan and polarized portion of the right, these excuses and accusations were familiar and appropriate.
To many people outside the talk-radio hothouse, I can attest, Trump’s debate performance was appalling, contemptible, shameful, squalid, vile. Do we really want a president who views the rule of law as a means to imprison his opposition? A president who dismisses talk of sexual assault on the theory that boys will be boys? A president who urges a foreign power to hack his opponent, then excuses that power when it is caught? A president who accuses his opponent of killing American soldiers based on a position he actually took himself?
Trump and his advisers must know that the conservative talk-radio audience, and the Republican primary electorate, is different from a national electorate, which actually includes minorities, young people and women who don’t like disgusting boors. Perhaps Trump’s strategy was a recognition that even his strongest supporters were on the verge of bolting and needed to be appeased. Perhaps Trump’s knowledge of policy is so thin that it fills three or four minutes of a 90-minute debate and all he has left is trash talk. Or perhaps he is captive to his impulses, incapable of shame and nasty to the core.
Whatever the explanation, Trump achieved the worst possible outcome for the GOP. He was good enough with his base to avoid a generalized revolt, and bad enough with the rest of the country to continue his slide toward major defeat. [The Washington Post, 10/10/16]
Wash. Post’s Chris Cillizza: “The Breitbart-ization Of Trump’s Campaign” Is “An Absolute Worst-Case Scenario For Republicans.” The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote that the appearance of “the Breitbart-ization of Trump's campaign, adopting a strategy of full-on attack against everyone who doesn’t see the world as he does -- including Republicans” means that “the disaster scenario — an electoral college wipeout, losing the Senate and the House — now has to be on the table.” From the October 11 article:
What appears to be happening is the Breitbart-ization of Trump's campaign, adopting a strategy of full-on attack against everyone who doesn't see the world as he does — including Republicans. (That move isn't totally out of the blue. Breitbart chief Stephen Bannon is a close Trump adviser.) Trump is effectively turning the guns on his own troops, a move that might be personally satisfying to him but that will result in near-certain carnage for lots of Republicans.
The promise to be unshackled means that this is going to get worse for Republicans. Maybe far worse. Trump will undoubtedly “go there” more often against Bill Clinton — as he did in the second debate — but will also do everything he can to embarrass Republican politicians who he believes have betrayed him (and their constituents). People I talked to over the weekend said the election for Republicans seemed headed for an every-man-for-himself mentality. But, it might be even worse than that now. You can try to run from Trump but (a) it might not work since we are so close to the election, and b) there's no promise that Trump will let you do it without attacking you by name.
This is an absolute worst-case scenario for Republicans. Had Trump turned against them months ago — or had his poll numbers dipped then as they have now — extricating themselves from the dumpster fire might have been painful, but it was possible. Now it's almost certainly too late to do any real distancing from the nominee even as he is promising more unpredictability and more intraparty attacks.
It's unclear how badly Trump can hurt his chances or those of his party downballot. But, the disaster scenario — an electoral college wipeout, losing the Senate and the House — now has to be on the table. [The Washington Post, 10/11/16]
Rolling Stone’s Jeb Lund: Trump’s Debate Performance Appealed Only To “A Rump Of Conservatism Too Small To Win The General Election Anyway.” Rolling Stone’s Jeb Lund wrote that, by “sounding like every World Net Daily or Breitbart op-ed indexed under the ‘Clinton’ tag,” Trump only “staunched the hemorrhaging of his base,” which is “too small to win the general election anyway." Lund concluded that “Trump and his surrogates have already shown every inclination to depict the 40-some-odd Republicans who have unendorsed him as establishment careerists” and that it’s all but certain that Trump’s response to “a formal [Republican] party action” would be “to rend the Party to hide his responsibility for an inevitable electoral humiliation.” From the October 10 article:
Judging from the Beltway thinkspeak merry-go-round on 24-hour media, Trump “won” this debate by triumphing over expectations set lower than the final resting place of the Titanic. By sounding like every World Net Daily or Breitbart op-ed indexed under the “Clinton” tag, he staunched the hemorrhaging of his base, a rump of conservatism too small to win the general election anyway, and potentially not enough for the rest of the party.
As it stands, the RNC and Trump are bound by a joint fundraising agreement. When the presidential nominee is a loyal party man, this agreement is a no-brainer. Money goes where it's needed, and the party as a whole benefits. But Donald Trump, already the antithesis of a party man, won't be around after 2016. He's barely here already. The Republican Party, on the other hand, would very much like to be.
If the party believes Trump's declining numbers and increasing unpalatability will exert downward pressure on Senate and House races, it has no reason to maintain this agreement. Already, the Trump campaign's disinclination to hire more organizers on the state level – Clinton has a 5-to-1 ground game advantage– forces the party to share financial and human resources. He's already hamstrung the party on an organizational level; further alienating voters only jeopardizes the House and Senate majorities, insult upon existing injury.
This would not be a smooth transition. Trump and his surrogates have already shown every inclination to depict the 40-some-odd Republicans who have unendorsed him as establishment careerists ready to betray an authentic populist movement. A formal party action would be interpreted as an official declaration of war. That Trump's response would be to rend the party to hide his responsibility for an inevitable electoral humiliation seems all but certain. [Rolling Stone, 10/10/16]