Over the past few days, Donald Trump has done the unthinkable: he’s shown restraint.
After Hillary Clinton’s health crisis on the weekend, Donald Trump has demonstrated real political acumen. His constant refrain is that he hopes “she gets better” — a message untempered by speculation about further health issues.
He’s been on-point and on-message. He even stayed in control after being baited by a television personality for a hotter take
This kind of restrained, media-aware messaging wouldn’t seem out of character from any other nominee. But from Trump, it’s a welcome change of pace. It shows that Trump understands what it takes to avoid another Khizr Khan debacle (or at least is listening to minders who do). It shows that there’s a level of understanding from his campaign that the kind of health rumour-mongering Trump was indulging in before Clinton’s collapse would seem grossly inappropriate now.
Trump is finally acting like a general-election candidate should act. He hasn’t made unforced errors for the media to exploit.
And there’s plenty of reason to think that he’ll win if he keeps course. The Democrat-led US federal government is presiding over a weak economy, and is headed by an unpopular president. These two factors should tilt the election in favour of the Republican candidate.
This is doubly true given the Democratic presidential nominee’s uniquely unpopular status among the general electorate. Hillary Clinton has a well-earned reputation as a cold, calculating career politician. As a result, she has a net unfavourable rating, a dubious feat for anyone seeking elected office.
Clinton’s recent medical fiascoes put her in an especially poor position. If her issues are compounded by a “low-energy” debate performance or further health problems, Trump will leave her in the dust.
If Donald Trump was a Mitt Romney or John McCain-style candidate, he’d be leading by miles. His offensive, media-grabbing antics allowed him to win a plurality of the Republican primary electorate, but those same antics have pushed away the more moderate general electorate. He’s left himself open to countless media smears, smears that have dissuaded would-be supporters.
Trump’s base of support — middle and upper income whites — is narrow. He doesn’t have much ground to make up (most polling averages have him just a couple of points behind Clinton) but he may need to attract support from unlikely places. Even Trump’s most diehard supporters have to acknowledge that pushing away wide swathes of the electorate isn’t a winning general election strategy.
With a bit of political acumen, Trump will win this election in a landslide.
We’ll see if he stays up to the task.