It’s possible to become inured to Donald Trump’s outlandish statements. Trump perhaps knows that the bar for attention is gradually rising, but he has made a huge splash with his latest effort – a claim that Barack Obama is “the founder of Isis”.
Yes, that’s as barefaced as it came. Trump did not mean to say Obama was an “enabler” of Isis, or that he created the messy environment from which Isis emerged. He meant to say what he said: Obama founded Isis.
We know this because the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt offered Trump a chance to restate his point in a more nuanced way, but he declined to do so.
Hewitt said: “Last night, you said the president was the founder of Isis. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.”
But Trump replied: “No, I meant he’s the founder of Isis. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”
What followed was a revealing insight into Trump’s tactics and objectives (and he has pre-determined versions of both, even if traditional campaign operatives can barely accept that).
Hewitt asked if Trump had made a mistake because Democrats and the media were calling his claim ludicrous, if not offensive. But Trump said “it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it”, referring presumably to his supporters.
When the radio host said he himself would use more careful language to make the point, Trump said: “But they wouldn’t talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?” In other words, it seems, he was aiming to kick up a fuss – and dominate the news – and he got what he wanted.
Was it a coincidence that this happened on the day of Clinton’s big speech on the economy in Michigan? Probably not. In the upbeat address she pledged to take a tough line in trade disputes with countries like China, as Sam Fleming reports, but it got somewhat lost amid the din of controversy.
Also overshadowed were newly-released emails from the State department that include requests related to the Clinton Foundation, raising new ethical questions about ties between the two organisations when Clinton was secretary of state.
The Isis furore ensured Trump’s own economy speech from Monday receded further into the distance too, but if the Republican hadn’t wanted that he wouldn’t have made comments the next day that some interpreted as an incitement to violence against his opponent.
As controversy piles upon controversy (though Trump bears no blame for the Spider-Man climbing his building yesterday), Courtney Weaver and I reported on how camp Clinton is feeling emboldened to try to win in the traditionally Republican states of Arizona and Georgia.
The latest cry of establishment GOP despair was also audible today, as more than 75 Republicans signed a letter urging the Republican National Committee to write off Trump and focus on defending the party’s Senate majority.
“We believe that Donald Trump’s divisiveness, recklessness, incompetence, and record-breaking unpopularity risk turning this election into a Democratic landslide, and only the immediate shift of all available RNC resources to vulnerable Senate and House races will prevent the GOP from drowning with a Trump-emblazoned anchor around its neck,” the letter says.
Stay floating. We’ll be back tomorrow – Barney Jopson, US Policy Correspondent
Have any questions about the race, the candidates or the electoral process? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to answer them in an upcoming dispatch.
Click here for full FT coverage of the 2016 race.
On the trail
Clinton targets Trump on Republican turf The Clinton campaign is set to mount a serious challenge to Donald Trump in traditionally red states, in a sign that it senses that the race may be shifting in her favour after a series of blunders by the former reality TV star. Clinton is also laying out an ambitious economic agenda that includes an infrastructure spending blitz. (FT)
Inside Trump’s meltdown The businessman’s presidential campaign has collapsed in the past few weeks – so have his poll numbers. Here’s how it all went downhill. (Time)
What happens to the Clinton Foundation if Clinton wins? The charitable organisation has become a lightning rod for criticism from Republicans. (NBC)
Trump already offers free childcare – for hotel guests The Republican nominee has boasted about how he offers free daycare services for his employees “and I get great people because of it”. Turns out those programmes aren’t for his employees – they’re for guests and patrons of his hotels and golf clubs. (AP)
The people neither campaign seems to care much about There’s a lot of talk about the working class and the middle class by both Clinton and Trump. But there’s one group – made up of millions of Americans – that neither has spent much time talking about: the poor. (NYT)
Republicans urge RNC to cut off Trump More than 70 Republicans have signed an open letter urging the RNC to stop spending money to help Trump win and instead focus all funds on Senate and House races, in the latest sign of dischord within the party. (Politico)
Chart of the day
Mitt Romney’s campaign went all out in Hamilton County – an important swing district in Ohio that is key to winning the state – the Trump team has no ground game to speak of. (WaPo)
Numbers of the day
2 The number of weeks after the conventions that polls become more predictive – today marks two weeks after the DNC. (Vox)
“No, I meant he’s the founder of Isis.” – Trump, asked by a conservative radio host whether he actually meant that President Obama was the “founder of Isis”, or actually that “he created the vacuum, he lost the peace”. (CNN)
“Point me in the direction of any place, anywhere in the world where our American interests are more safe and more secure today than they were when she became secretary of state. You can’t. Because that place doesn’t exist.” - Pennsylvania Republican senator Pat Toomey, who is facing a tough reelection fight, when asked which nominee posed a bigger threat to US security. (TPM)
“It’s unlikely, however, that any of Trump’s future attacks will be as scary as what happened in Mount Pleasant, where the crowd, feeding off Trump, seemed to turn on me like a large animal, angry and unchained. It wasn’t until hours later, when Secret Service took the extraordinary step of walking me to my car, that the incident sank in.” – Katy Tur, NBC correspondent, on what it is like to be called out by Trump from the stage at a rally, and how the crowd turned on her. (Marie Claire)
America’s Perón? (John Paul Rathbone, FT)
Does Trump pay nothing in taxes? (James Stewart, NYT)
Ryan is enabling Trump like an ineffective parent (Danielle Allen, WaPo)
How the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry explains political polarisation A tale of partisanship, also in blue and red. (fivethirtyeight)
Today’s poll average
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