A Contrary View of Trump’s Big Day

I seem to have a contrary and somewhat alarmist reaction to Donald Trump’s Big Day, yesterday. Taken by itself, independent of the press coverage and the substance, and the political fallout in the Latino community, I think it was clearly Trump’s best day as a candidate going all the way back to his now infamous announcement speech.

While Josh Marshall saw echoes of Hitler in Trump’s ability to shape-shift between calm statesman in Mexico City and heliotrope demagogue in Arizona, I saw that Trump was finally able to demonstrate how he might be able to negotiate the world stage.

While right-leaning political analyst Stuart Rothenberg went ape on Twitter while watching the Arizona immigration speech, and essentially threw up his hands in frustration, I saw Trump at his most effective at making the case for a merciless and cruel policy.

After the speech, I found myself much more in agreement with Hugh Hewitt and Sean Hannity that Trump had performed at a high level than I was with folks who said that Trump had irretrievably screwed the pooch.

But here’s what I really think.

I don’t think there was much of an audience for any of yesterday’s events, as folks are more focused on the beginning of school and preparations for a holiday weekend. Therefore, what Trump did in both Mexico and Arizona will be filtered through the media before most people become aware of it at all. And, overall, the media hated it. Therefore, despite demonstrating that he’s capable of standing on a stage with a foreign head of state without being an imbecile, and despite crafting his immigration speech in a very effective way, few people will experience those accomplishments. Instead, they’ll hear how he wimped out in Mexico and lied about whether he discussed who will pay for the wall. They’ll hear that he’s reverted to a hardline (and unpopular) immigration stance. They’ll see his speech compared to a Klan rally or Hitler speech. They’ll read about Latino Trump-supporters jumping ship. And the folks who get positive reviews will be the folks who only consume right-wing media, and those folks are mostly in Trump’s corner anyway.

I think he’ll succeed in shoring up his support from the right, which is important for him and will help in the polls at least to the extent that it compensates for possible losses elsewhere. As Nate Silver points out, the polls have been tightening and the trends are in Trump’s favor. If they tighten as much as Silver’s model expect them to, we could have an actual contest on our hands.

But, Trump’s rise in the polls seems to have coincided with his retooling his campaign staff, and part of that has been a “softening” of his edges. The Mexican portion of his day helped in that regard, while the Arizona portion clearly did not.

The question is which piece will have more preponderance in the mind of the public?

My suspicion is that once we factor in the media coverage and the fallout, Trump will come out worse because the progress he was making was tied to him seeming more reasonable and moderate.

However, I still think he made a compelling case for his hardline on immigration yesterday, especially in his use of the families who have had loved ones murdered or killed by undocumented immigrants. Like it or not, a lot of America was nodding in agreement to most of his Arizona speech, including a lot of people who see him as temperamentally unfit for the office of the presidency.

Though I don’t predict it, I will not be shocked to see the next round of polls showing a much tighter race.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.