A Trump loss will result from a badly run campaign, not a rigged election

Top of the Ticket cartoon
Top of the Ticket cartoon
(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

If Donald Trump loses it will not be the result of a rigged election; it will be the fault of his monumentally terrible campaign.

Trump’s successful capture of the Republican presidential nomination was driven by the free media his celebrity bought him and the special resonance his politically incorrect demeanor had with a large segment of the GOP electorate. He is still getting plenty of free media, but not the kind he wants, and he seems unable to expand his reach very far beyond lily-white talk radio devotees and gut-driven, low-information voters.

Through most of the primary season, TV journalists, pundits and talk show hosts treated Trump as either a joke or a passing phenomenon to be exploited for entertainment value. It was a symbiotic relationship that worked nicely for Trump. Once he won the nomination, though, serious news organizations (newspapers, mainly) began to dig into Trump’s taxes, business operations and private life and came up with a series of revelations that have shown the candidate to be a deeply narcissistic, tax-avoiding con man who treats women as easy targets for his lascivious impulses.


All the negative attention has provoked Trump into progressively wilder claims of persecution and unfair treatment. His core fans have howled and whined along with him, but, to the rest of the voting public, he simply looks more obviously unstable and unfit for the presidency. Many undecided voters got their first long look at Trump during the three debates with Hillary Clinton and glimpsed Trump at his worst — semi-coherent, defensive, boorish, undisciplined and, at times, just plain creepy.

Trump has turned out to be a poor candidate for the general election and his campaign organization, such as it is, looks to be largely an overstocked stable of surrogates willing to defend their boss with impressively contorted streams of illogic. Real professionals able to do the grunt work necessary for a winning campaign appear to be in short supply.

Reportedly, the Trump organization’s spending on its famous red baseball caps exceeds what has been paid for polling. The campaign is, effectively, more of a haberdashery than a political operation. Apparently, it cannot even do that very well. One Republican Party chairman in swing-state Nevada has publicly complained he can’t get caps, signs or even a call back from the Trump campaign.

Trump’s latest campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is a great talker, but not really a campaign manager in the traditional sense. Her predecessor, Paul Manafort, was a pro, but had to quit the campaign when it was revealed that much of his experience was gained pimping for Vladimir Putin’s stooges in Ukraine. The guy before Manafort, Corey Lewandowski, got dumped after he was accused of manhandling a Breitbart News reporter and an anti-Trump protester.

Trump has been vastly outspent by Clinton’s fundraising juggernaut, yet it has now been announced that the campaign is no longer raising money, either for Trump or for GOP efforts down ballot. Trump, himself, is wandering the country, holding rallies in random places. His need to bask in the adoration of his red-capped crowds seems to override any coherent plan to focus attention on the few states that might still be his to win.


On Wednesday, Trump was in Washington, D.C., where he has zero chance of picking up the district’s three electoral votes. He visited the capital for the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel. The place has actually been open for a month, but, so far, guests are few and swanky rooms are being heavily discounted. Speculation is that the Trump brand has been tarnished by the Trump campaign.

Perhaps Trump realizes he has two failing enterprises on his hands. Better to give attention to the one that still has a chance — the hotel — and blow off the one that seems doomed — the presidential campaign.

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter