Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is refusing to back House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in his upcoming primary election, saying in an interview Tuesday that he is “not quite there yet” in endorsing his party’s top-ranking elected official.
Trump also said he was not supporting Sen. John McCain in his primary in Arizona, and he singled out Sen. Kelly Ayotte as a weak and disloyal leader in New Hampshire, a state whose presidential primary Trump won handily.
I get tired of trying to figure out new ways of expressing bewilderment/confusion/amazement/etc. at the latest outburst from Donald Trump. You probably get tired of reading it. But seriously: WTF is this all about?
In one sense, it’s just normal Trump. His MO is simple: If you attack me, I attack you. Period. Ryan, McCain, and Ayotte all condemned Trump’s attacks on Khizr Khan, so now he’s paying them back.
At the same time, this is so plainly self-defeating that it’s bizarrely suicidal behavior even for Trump.1 He’s way behind in the polls and sure can’t afford to piss off his own party members. So what’s going on? Here’s one possibility: There’s been an undercurrent of speculation recently that Trump has come to realize he’s going to lose, so now he’s setting things up to give himself an excuse. The establishment was against me. The voting was rigged. The media hated me. The debates were scheduled badly. The sun was in my eyes.
I didn’t buy this when I first heard it, and I’m not sure I do now. But…I have to admit that it’s beginning to sound more plausible all the time. If Trump loses, it’s going to be a very big, very public loss, and he’s not used to that kind of humiliation. He’s used to being able to tap dance around his losses and pretend they don’t exist—something he can get away with thanks to his ease with telling lies and the fact that his company is privately owned. But in an election, everything is out in the open. If he loses, he’ll need some very public excuses for what happened. So maybe he really has given up and is now just creating a paper trail he can use to defend his likely big loss. Who knows? Maybe it’s not even something he’s doing consciously. Maybe it’s just raw animal cunning at work.
1“Even for Trump” is now so commonly used that it needs an abbreviation. EFT is the obvious choice. Any other ideas?