There's no concern among the supporters at Trump's recent rallies about the tape
Rudy Giuliani says Hillary Clinton "wishes she could draw a crowd like this."
Donald Trump is now campaigning in his own reality.
Seen from inside the GOP nominee’s euphoric, angry crowds, the election the rest of the nation is watching might as well be unfolding on a different planet.
There’s no talk here about Trump’s drooping poll numbers, uneven debate performances or outrage over his vulgar, sexually aggressive remarks about women. Trump World is angry, resentful and in no mood to hear the Washington consensus that the GOP nominee is driving his party over a precipice just 26 days before America chooses its next president.
As he faces the toughest crisis of his campaign – battling a growing number of stories about harassment of women and fighting a war with his party’s leader – Trump is serving up a brew of the hard right’s most enduring obsessions. Speaking before adoring crowds, he lambasts the “crooked” Clintons, calls out the “liberal” media and torches the elites of his own party, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Every Trump supporter who is asked believes that their candidate crushed Hillary Clinton in the brutal, scorched earth debates. They are certain that polls suggesting he will lose the election are missing hordes of true believers who will show up on November 8.
“I think he burnt her up. She deserves to be burned up anyway and he did a very good job of it,” Roger Coon, a 70-year-old Trump supporter in Ocala, Florida, said as he waited for his candidate to show up for a rally on Wednesday.
No concern about tape
There’s no concern among the supporters at Trump’s recent rallies about the video tape released last Friday revealing Trump talking about women in extraordinarily crude terms. New allegations in The New York Times that Trump groped women surfaced after he had left the trail for the day. Trump denied the claims and they are almost certain not to dent his support among his core loyalists.
If the reaction to Trump’s lewd “Access Hollywood” tape is a guide, Trump’s backers are forgiving and view such transgressions as something that happened well in the past.
“That has nothing to do with whether or not he can lead this nation,” said Joy Giles, a Trump supporter at a rally in Panama City, Florida on Tuesday night. “I think Hillary Clinton has done a lot worse in her lifetime as a politician (including) Benghazi. Trump didn’t kill anybody.”
The overwhelming feeling at a Trump rally is that the United States is 26 days from some kind of cultural and political apocalypse.
“We are on the edge of a cliff, we are about to see the end of America,” said Dennis Baxley, a Florida lawmaker serving as Trump’s warm-up act before his Ocala rally on Monday.
The impending doom is taken in stride.
In Ocala, one man had a tee-shirt reading “Bill Clinton is a rapist” while, nearby, an elderly couple danced, resplendent in head-to-toe suits made up of the Stars and Stripes.
But there’s no mistaking the seething anti-establishment anger under the surface. One woman was speaking to a CNN reporter Wednesday about why she likes Trump, when a couple came up to her and ordered her to clam up because journalists twist the truth and can’t be trusted.
The woman tried to carry on but finally stopped talking when the woman started screaming “Trump, Trump” to drown her out – an example of the anti-media hysteria that the GOP nominee whips up at his rallies.
One Trump supporter, PH Culver, of Marin County explained that the hostility is so acute because Trump supporters sincerely believe the media is biased against them.
“Over and over and over again, the media does not represent conservative America,” Culver said, complaining that reporters had done too little to probe the Clinton marriage and had no interest in traditional family issues.
For his part, Trump is giving his crowds exactly what they want.
Hailed at rallies
His enthusiastic reception during campaign swing across the Sunshine State this week underscore the grass roots enthusiasm that no previous GOP nominee has conjured in years. His vitriol might offend media commentators – and the establishment of his own party – but Trump is hailed at rallies as a kind of secular prophet by a lost political tribe that has finally found a champion with the guts to say what he thinks.
“They have a problem with the fact that he’s real that he talks to us, that he gets us,” said Sharon Day, a RNC co-chair and fervent Trump supporter, said at a Trump rally in Ocala Wednesday that boiled with anger at political elites.
But giving his army what it wants is one thing. Winning the election is another.
Trump’s refuge in politics of resentment won’t likely help reverse the slide he’s suffered over the last two weeks that has all but closed off his path to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the White House.
If campaigns at this late stage are about broadening appeal to try to piece together a plurality of voters, Trump seems to be doing the exact opposite, a strategy that may hint at what he really thinks of his prospects of victory.
Since his debate showdown on Sunday when he tried to eviscerate Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s character and revived long dormant scandals over Bill Clinton’s infidelities, Trump has stepped it up another notch.
“She has to go to jail,” Trump warned in his second rally of the day Wednesday, referring to Clinton’s email controversy.
Adding to the sense of surreal unreality, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Brianna Keilar Wednesday that Trump’s words should not necessarily be taken at face value.
“You’re talking it literally,” Conway said on “The Situation Room.” “What a lot of Americans want to know, why this woman wasn’t punished and why news outlets think this is ok.”
Intimate connection with the audience
Despite the vitriol and negativity, there is no denying the intimate connection between Trump and his audience. In some ways, his rallies are an opportunity for his supporters to vent long pent-up frustrations. They also reflect the gaping cultural and political divides opened by the 2016 campaign, which will be almost impossible to close whoever wins the election.
Trump relishes his role at the rallies as he joyfully climbs into his attacks on the Clintons and the media, clearly gaining affirmation from the adulation. His humor comes across far more easily in a live setting than on television when he often seems harsh.
Now deprived of his go-to boast, about his winning poll numbers that carried him through the primary race, Trump now seeks solace in the size of his crowds, telling his audience on Tuesday that a famous, unnamed musician complimented him about his drawing power.
I “get the biggest crowds in the world for a guy without a guitar, which is an interesting way of looking at it,” Trump said.
Trump’s companion on the trail, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has taken to to citing a metric that always tempts troubled campaigns — boasting about crowd size.
“Hillary Clinton wishes she could draw a crowd like this. She even had to drag out Al Gore, remember him!” Giuliani said Wednesday.
But now and again, an almost wistful feeling seems to overcome Trump, in a possible sign that though his army of supporters will never desert him, he may not be as confident as they are about the destiny of the election. On Wednesday afternoon, for instance, Trump admitted he was baffled that he was doing so poorly with women voters in the polls.
“I don’t understand. Every place I go, I see hundreds of women for Trump and then I see a poll: he’s not doing well with women. I don’t know. I don’t get it,” Trump said.
And at the end of a long day on Tuesday, Trump even appeared close to admitting his stunning, uproarious political journey could be nearing its end.
“You better make sure we win or there will be no more Trump rallies — the Hell with that,” Trump said. “To Hell with the rallies.”