Trump’s missed op­por­tu­nity

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - By­ron York Colum­nist

Donna Ryan is a re­tired di­rec­tor of fi­nance who de­scribes her­self as a po­lit­i­cal mod­er­ate and whose po­lit­i­cal hero is Ron­ald Rea­gan. She wor­ries about the na­tional debt, the threat from the Is­lamic State, and a de­cline in pub­lic moral­ity has­tened by so­cial me­dia. She doesn’t be­lieve the United States is par­tic­u­larly great now -- she rates it at a six when asked to place the coun­try’s present con­di­tion on a one-to-ten great­ness scale -- and she would like to see an Amer­ica that is “free and truly lead­ing the world in ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing morals.”

Donna wanted to vote for Don­ald Trump. For much of the cam­paign, up un­til the sum­mer’s party con­ven­tions, she was drawn to the ap­peal of a busi­ness­man, and es­pe­cially a non-politi­cian, run­ning for pres­i­dent. (She still has warm feel­ings for Ben Car­son, whose can­di­dacy she ad­mired.) But she can no longer sup­port Trump and has “pretty closely de­cided” to vote for Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“I so much wanted Trump,” Donna told a fo­cus group held Tues­day night in the Char­lotte area by the Demo­cratic poll­ster Peter Hart. “I so much wanted a non-politi­cian. But I don’t trust him, and I’ve be­come afraid of him.” Why afraid? asked Hart. “Be­cause I just don’t think he knows when to shut up,” Donna an­swered. “If he would just say, I’m a busi­ness­man, I’m not a politi­cian, I’m go­ing to make Amer­ica great again -- and stop right there -- then I would vote for him.”

When did Trump lose you? Hart asked.

“Around the sum­mer­time, so it guess it was around the con­ven­tions,” Donna an­swered. “I started get­ting ner­vous. He just went off and his face gets all red.”

An­other Hart ques­tion: When his face gets red, what does that say to you?

“I see a tem­per, a tem­per tantrum, like a lit­tle boy,” Donna said. “I had five broth­ers, and I re­mem­ber that face. And that’s when I got scared of him.”

“So I started to lis­ten more to Clin­ton. I don’t like Clin­ton, let me tell you, and I don’t trust her, but I think she’s the lesser of two evils.”

There were a dozen peo­ple in Hart’s group, six men and six women. They were all what Hart called “late de­ciders” -they had made their choice in the last cou­ple of months -- or were still un­de­cided. Of the men, three ap­peared to sup­port Trump, with some reser­va­tions, while two ap­peared to less re­luc­tantly sup­port Clin­ton. One was dif­fi­cult to read. The ones who supported Trump wor­ried a lot about the Supreme Court and on that ba­sis chose to back the Repub­li­can. (In­deed, for most of the Trump lean­ers, the fu­ture of the Court was nearly the only rea­son cited to ex­plain their sup­port.)

But it was the women who told the story of the group -and per­haps the elec­tion.

An­other woman, Jen­nifer, be­gan by say­ing she is still un­de­cided. “I’m kind of like Donna,” she said. “I wanted to like Trump. But I don’t know that I can, be­cause it’s em­bar­rass­ing the way he acts, his tem­per tantrums. I think he’s just an em­bar­rass­ment to our coun­try. I don’t em­brace Clin­ton, but I’d vote for her. It’s prob­a­bly go­ing to be a vote against Trump.”

Trump let it all get away. And it didn’t hap­pen with the leak of the “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape, or with the ac­counts of women who said Trump tried to grope them. No, it ap­pears Trump blew it with many women be­gin­ning with the con­ven­tions, when he for­mally en­tered a one-on-one con­test with Hil­lary Clin­ton. Un­der the height­ened scru­tiny of a general elec­tion race, with press cov­er­age turn­ing sharply neg­a­tive, Trump’s fight with Khizr Khan, his re­marks about “Sec­ond Amend­ment peo­ple,” his ex­tended fight over the 1996 Miss Uni­verse -those new con­tro­ver­sies, piled on top of the pre-ex­ist­ing con­tro­ver­sies from the GOP pri­mary sea­son, fi­nally took Trump down. Ev­ery­thing af­ter that was just ex­tra.

To watch the ses­sion was to see the great big, beau­ti­ful op­por­tu­nity Trump -- even the most im­per­fect Trump -- had to win the loy­alty of vot­ers who wanted some­thing new. He had a golden chance and didn’t do it.

By­ron York is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Washington Ex­am­iner.

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