Trump's campaign enters dangerous territory

Donald Trump's campaign is now nearing the event horizon of a political black hole, or, more crudely, beginning to circle the toilet bowl.

If Trump thinks he can win the general election by continuing to go forward with what has gone on over the past week, the Hillary Clinton machine is about to teach him a lesson of epic proportions.

On Saturday, Trump uttered more incoherent statements regarding his immigration policies:

Donald Trump has revised his proposed ban on foreign Muslims, with spokeswoman Hope Hicks saying Saturday that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee only wants to ban Muslims from countries with heavy terrorism.

Hicks said in an email that her boss took this new position -- which is a dramatic scaling back of the position he first took in early December -- during a policy speech nearly two weeks ago. In that speech, Trump did not mention Muslims and called for a temporary ban on "certain people coming from certain horrible -- where you have tremendous terrorism in the world, you know what those places are." At the time, it appeared that Trump was expanding his ban to include more people, not limiting its scope. ...

During one of four stops along the 18-hole course, a reporter asked Trump if he would be okay with a Muslim from Scotland coming into the United States and he said it "wouldn't bother me."

Afterwards, Hicks said in an email that Trump's ban would now just apply to Muslims in terror states, but she would not confirm that the ban would not apply to non-Muslims from those countries or to Muslims living in peaceful countries. ...

In an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Dec. 8, Trump said that customs agents or border guards would be charged with asking people: "Are you Muslim?" If the answer was yes, then that person would not be allowed into the country, Trump said.

After seven months, one would think this policy would be coherent, but it is about as far from coherence as possible.  One could drive through the holes in the ever-evolving "policy."

Asking Muslims if they are, in fact, Muslim, is not a rigorous test, and if you ban only those Muslims from "terror states" – whichever ones these are that is equivalent to building a dam only partway across the river.  The river will just flow around the obstruction and follow the path of least resistance.

One suspects that Ms. Hicks is in well over her head as being the face of Trump's campaign.  Odds of Trump winning in November with this team out in front dealing with the forthcoming onslaught?  Zero.

Given the shared political strategies and strategists between the right-of-center parties in the U.S. and Canada, it is not surprising to see Trump's campaign currently headed in the same direction that befell Stephen Harper's campaign in Canada last fall.  Harper's team tried to play it too cute and repeatedly walked away from policy positions on hot-button topics such as immigration that not only were wildly popular among the base, but also had substantial support across the spectrum.  In the run-up to Canada's vote, Harper's team took the wrong approach time after time, and the base walked because of the unprincipled and incoherent flip-flopping.  The result was a Liberal Party majority government, which clearly the conservative "strategists" didn't see as possible (or did they?) but which the vastly more intelligent conservative base could see coming as clear as day.

Trump has fallen into this same hole.

While the polling data is highly biased against Trump, the real state of the race can be approximated by correcting for the known biases and following trends in key sub-indicator groups whose results are probably close to accurate.  This data unequivocally shows that Corey Lewandowski had Trump's campaign on a successful trajectory prior to his firing last Monday.  If Reince Priebus likes the decision, and Megyn Kelly clearly detests Lewandowski, and S.E. Cupp also isn't a supporter, and Michelle Fields thinks he "wasn't good at his job," there is a metaphysical certainty Lewandowski's firing was wrong.

It looks as though Trump's own children may have sabotaged his campaign, perhaps irrecoverably:

Later that day [Sunday], Ivanka, 34, a businesswoman, delivered an altogether tougher message to her own father, Donald Trump, who views her as his most important political adviser.

Flanked by her brothers Donald Jr, 38, and Eric, 32, she told him he risked losing his audacious bid for the White House if he did not make radical changes to his campaign.

It was a pivotal moment for Trump, marking a shift away from the tactics he used to defeat 16 rivals for the Republican nomination and the beginning of his battle with Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

The Trump children, along with Kushner, 35, an investor and owner of The New York Observer newspaper, demanded the head of Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager. ...

Paul Manafort, 67, a top adviser and campaign veteran brought in when Trump faltered in the primaries, had told Ivanka that if Lewandowski stayed, he would walk.

Manafort is an issue.  His known linkages with a wide range of problematic regimes around the world, from the Saudi royal family to Pakistan's radically Islamic security services, has canceled out the possible attacks Trump could have leveled at Clinton for her connections to troublesome foreign entities.

Polling data, when corrected for bias, also continues to show that the Muslim ban policy is a clear winner.  Whoever gave Trump advice to walk this back made a critical error.  Voters on the right are über-cynical this cycle, and any hints of flip-flops will lead them to walk across the aisle as revenge for the betrayal or sit at home.  Even worse, Trump's flip-flops remain online across his own websites, leading potential voters into a collective pea soup fog of nonsense.

Marco Rubio said on Sunday that Trump's Muslim ban is "not going to happen."  He may be right, but not for the reasons he thinks.  Trump himself doesn't appear to really want a ban, despite what he says one day and then rejects the next.

In their defense, primary voters chose the least worst option this time around which perhaps shows just how terrible the options were.  Trump was occasionally taking the right positions on the issues that mattered most to the base: immigration and trade.  Nobody else who had a real chance to win was talking the talk that the base was looking for.  Backing Trump in the primaries wasn't a mistake; the base didn't have a serious alternative that touched on the values they are concerned about.

Trump is now losing support from all sides of the ship.  Polling data over the past week shows this with clarity.  Even correcting for known bias, the latest data shows that Trump has lost the large lead he held over Clinton prior to firing Lewandowski and is now probably behind Clinton or at most tied with her.  Some prominent moderate/centrist Republicans such as George Will and Hank Paulson are starting to line up behind Clinton.  Although Will and Paulson hold far too many unconservative positions, some of their complaints regarding Trump are on target.  Watching Trump flounder across the map on issues the moderates may eventually have been convinced to grudgingly support, or at least not vigorously and openly oppose, sealed the deal.

Bernie Sanders's supporters appear to be headed toward Clinton as well.  Those who supported Sanders, whatever their ideological faults, tend to value principles, which is why many of them used to see a principled Trump campaign as a potential second choice versus the pragmatic and unprincipled Clinton.  But now that Trump has repeatedly burned his bridges to principled policy positions on a range of issues, Sanders's base will almost assuredly head toward Hillary.

Giving a blazingly successful campaign manager the unceremonious, and apparently undeserved, public boot and subsequent insulting security escort to the door, coupled with a now undeniably wishy-washy immigration stance that no commentators can continue to defend (particularly with now diurnal variability), was the last straw for some in the conservative base as well.

The conservative commentariat and base, possible Sanders cross-overs, centrist Republicans Trump has displeased them all, for many to the point of no return.  This ship is starting to sink, which was the all too predictable outcome perhaps even intentional once the GOP establishment took over the Trump campaign.  In many ways, the establishment wanted Trump to lose more than did the liberals, and they may have gotten their way once Trump opened the gates willingly and let his enemies inside his own campaign.

Falling into a classic political trap is not a presidential characteristic voters are seeking.