Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once purportedly said about Hitler that, "He didn't know when to stop." That can be said of Trump. In mid-March, Trump looked unstoppable. Florida, Louisiana, Arizona had all fallen to him, more and more pledged delegates were piling up by the day in his columns, the stop Trump campaign among many GOP regulars had seemingly grind down, and despite his sky high negatives, his poll numbers were still comfortably high. To top it off he still had mountains of campaign cash, and a fawning, almost sycophant, mainstream media that feasted on him as a ratings cash cow and continued to turn every Trump belch or hiccup into headline news. The nomination seemed his for the taking.
Then it happened. The very thing that could him to the top of the top, caved in on him. That is his mouth. He went too far. He reveled in the Esquire hit piece on Ted Cruz's alleged affairs with mistresses, and took swipes at his wife. He popped off that women should practically be lashed for illegal abortions, and then realizing that even by his under the curb standards had gone too far, and walked it back. He picked fights with interviewers about his campaign manager Corey Lewandowsky claiming that he did no wrong when he was charged with manhandling a reporter at one of his campaign rallies, even after the video footage of the assault clearly showed that Lewandowsky arm wrestled her. He capped that by defiantly saying that his prior pledge to support the GOP presidential nominee was null and void.
This was way too much to stomach for more than a few Trump admirers. They had rooted him on and wallowed in his take no prisoners, pugnacious, shoot from the lip, in your face knocks and slaps at any and all comers; the GOP party establishment, politicians of all stripes, Washington bureaucrats, political pundits, and any and all in the media. But Trump's numbers plunge told the tale of his mouth's ugly work. Weeks before the key upcoming Wisconsin primary, April 5, Trump was breezing. He had a cozy poll lead over Cruz. The state seemed in the bag. But Trump's mouth changed that. Cruz surged ahead in the poll numbers, got the endorsement of GOP governor Scott Walker, and many conservative talk radio gabbers. The mouth that went too far also did what a scant few weeks earlier would have seemed almost unthinkable and that's convert Cruz from a man that the GOP establishment loathed not only into a seemingly respectable, reasonable, even thoughtful GOP presidential nominee, but a guy who had the right stuff to be a worthy GOP president.
In truth, Trump's trip over his mouth shouldn't be much of a surprise. He did that repeatedly long before he ever announced he was in the 2016 presidential race. In fact, it was his utter know no bounds hubris, and arrogance, that made him a durable hit man for the GOP for a time in the 2012 contest.
He tapped the basest instincts among a wide swatch of disconnected and alienated GOP hard-right faithful, lower income white blue collar workers, and the worst of the worst unreconstructed bigots within and without the party. They were the ones who stayed away from the polls in droves in 2008 and 2012. Their absence was the tipping factor that assured the election of Obama and his return to the White House. There were two keys to try and get them back. One was to pander hard to their fear and xenophobia of minorities, gays, immigrants and Muslims.
The other was to have someone willing to spew as much verbal bile at Obama as possible. Trump fit the bill. And the issue of choice in 2012 was the thoroughly phony and idiotic issue of Obama's supposed foreign birth. Trump latched onto the issue and turned it and him into a political cause celebre in the run-up to the 2012 presidential contest.
The GOP's good cop, bad cop ploy with Trump was crass and cynical. 2012 GOP presidential contender, Mitt Romney, and the entire GOP establishment publicly hammered him for dredging up the phony birther issue. And in a political self-righteous pique, they pretended to distance themselves from him claiming he did not represent what the GOP purportedly stood for.
In the early going of Campaign 2016 that script was repeated again this time with GOP leaders publicly expressing indignation at Trump's toxic slurs about Muslims and Latinos. They made almost identical pronouncements as in 2012 that he was a one man wrecking ball of what the GOP supposedly stands for.
Then things got out of hand when Trump's incendiary digs and slur computed into big and consistent poll numbers, primary wins, and mounting numbers of delegates in his column. Now that that may change. And that's brought joy and a big sigh of relief among many in the GOP that his mouth just may have cost him the nomination.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is From Sanders to Trump: A Guide to the 2016 Presidential Primary Battles (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Saturdays 9:00 AM on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network