Just when it seemed Trump might go a week without saying something controversial, he spent Sunday and Monday responding to the Orlando terror attack by congratulating himself for “being right” about Islamic terror, suggested Obama sympathized with terrorists and renewed his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants in a series of media appearances riddled with inaccuracies.
For the rest of the Republican Party, Trump’s rhetoric made for a distracting start to the week.
“Republican Leadership – Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell – they can’t do anything other than say, ‘I don’t agree with what he’s saying,’ but continue to support their candidate,” Martin says. “If they take back their endorsement and Trump loses the presidency, they’ll be viewed as being responsible for that and that could do long-term damage to the Republican Party.”
If the leadership feels trapped, the rest of the party appears to be running helter skelter.
“Republicans running for office, particularly vulnerable ones, are distancing themselves from Trump because they don’t want an association with him to impact their re-election chances,” Martin says. “Famous Republicans like Mitt Romney and Meg Whitman are flat out saying they won’t vote for him. You have a cacophony of Republicans doing different things depending on what they personally have at stake.”
“They’re between a rock and a hard place of their own making, but I don’t see a way out for them,” Martin added.
As for The Donald himself, Martin thinks Trump’s response to Orlando will fire up his base, but diminish his ability to expand beyond it.
“This goes back to the ‘Mexican’ judge episode: If you’re not a white guy, you’re really not an American to Donald Trump,” Martin says. “For Clinton to win the presidency, she has to win every constituency that’s not the white male. Trump seems to be reminding all those constituencies that he’s not their candidate.”
Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts. She can discuss:
- economic messages in political campaigns
- presidential campaign strategy
- religious voters and evangelical social movements