The Democrats would have you believe that Donald Trump's troubles in the polls are because Hillary Clinton is such a great, stable, staid option. But "staid" and "stable" as she may be, she's just not that great, and that's not at all the reason. In fact, really nothing that the Democrats are doing is harming Trump.

The true Trump slump culprits, the group actually most determined to see Trump lose -- and the one which continues most effectively harming his efforts -- is the Republic Party Establishment. Elements of the Republican National Committee and the GOP Establishment are actively -- sometimes brazenly -- doing everything they can to sabotage Trump's campaign, from those highly visible coordinated "public admonishment" campaigns every time he does something at all objectionable, to floating speculation that Trump will drop out or somehow be removed as nominee, to having right-wing commentators bash Trump in psychiatric terms, to diverting donations which the givers expect to be used to support Trump to instead go to swing-state GOP Congressional and Senate candidates running anti-Trump ads.

The #NeverTrumpers

A significant portion of the GOP has been against Trump from the start, and never wavered in this opposition. And the control that this portion of the population continues to exercise is apparent when viewing tactics which its agents continue to wage against Trump, despite his having secured their nomination (or perhaps, to a degree, to spite this). The Republican National Committee is floating the notion that Trump may "drop out" -- a smear clearly intended to gut support for Trump while highlighting the sentiment being pushed from the other side that Trump as volatile and irrational. There is, naturally, always a possibility of a candidate dropping out for any number of reasons, but Trump is on the one hand less beholden to political norms which would force a candidate from the race due to scandal or gaffe (though, on the other hand less beholden to countering political norms which would pressure a candidate to stay in a race which has become futile due to rigging or like interference against them by their own party).

Some of these same Trump critics are even now urging the RNC to call a special meeting to replace Trump, asserting that he is "dangerously incompetent" for the job. It is likely that they know such a call to be equally futile, but they know as well that the very fact that it is made (and that similar calls will come, with regularity, over the months to follow future) damages Trump. Republican strategist Rick Wilson is calling on his partymen to "beat Trump like a drum," so that he suffers "a humiliating defeat." Another Republican strategist, Jonathan V. Last, implores the party to pull all funding for Trump so as not to "throw good money after bad." Yet another Republican strategist, Matt Mackowiak, asserts that Trump is "threatening the entire GOP" and his candidacy could be "an extinction-level event."

And as of a week ago, the Republican Party has, additionally, authorized swing state Congressional candidates to run anti-Trump ads. (An example is Conservative Congressman Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th congressional district, now running an anti-Trump TV ad.) These ads are prone come in two flavors. The first are those explicitly asserting that Trump is a terrible person, perhaps deeming him unfit for office or even insinuating mental illness, and that voters ought to back GOP congressional candidates who oppose this bad, awful man (either because opposing evil is right to do just on principle, or because the candidate who stands up to the bad guy now will continue standing up to him if this bad guy becomes a President from the candidate's own party). The second sort create the frame that Trump is an inevitable loser, and beg support to counter the equally inevitable coming of President Hillary Clinton. Notably, the GOP had early on made an effort to avoid "selling past the close" on Clinton by acting as if her losing was a foregone conclusion. This has gone out the window, with mailers and such explicitly identifying a "President Hillary Clinton" to be countered by a Republican Congress (one such mailer was sent out last week by Speaker Paul Ryan).

Down-ballot races have especially motivated the economically conservative "Club For Growth," such that it has committed to getting specifically anti-Trump Republicans to the polls, where they will hopefully vote for down-ballot Republicans while voting against Trump. This may well be a more effective turnout mechanism for people voting for Clinton than anything Clinton's own campaign could dream of. But this is, as well, unsurprising in light of the Club For Growth's dismay at many of Trump's policies which are anathema to their traditional Republican preferences for free trade and cutting spending and deficits.

The 2020ers

A separate but connected motivation for Trump opposition within the GOP comes from politicians (and their constituency of backers) who look towards running against the aforementioned "President Hillary Clinton" in 2020. Many within the GOP consider the 2020 election to be the most important election of the generation, given the control that its winners will have in redistricting after the 2020 Census. And so perhaps a dozen members of the initial 2016 Republican pool continue to eye this possibility, chiefly including John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker. Additionally, some swing state party stars like Paul Ryan and Kelly Ayotte and Joni Ernst are considered contenders for such a campaign. The strategies of these candidates have varied.

Look no further than Ohio where John Kasich (with an eye on running against "President Hillary Clinton" in 2020, continues to paint Trump as an effete liar, repeating his claim that Trump offered him an Imperial Vice-Presidency, one coming with the terms that a Vice-President Kasich would be completely in charge of both domestic and foreign policy. This is an especially devastating charge, firstly because Trump has expressly denied it (so one of them must be lying), and secondly because it paints Trump as uninterested in carrying out the work of the office he seeks. The Secretary of State of Ohio -- the guy responsible for "counting the votes' -- is one of Kasich's most loyal supporters, Jon Husted. And so there is every reason for Trump to "lose" pivotal Ohio in a "squeaker," much to Kasich's benefit.

Other places to look for "losses" like that -- Florida, where the two most connected politicians, Marco Rubio AND Jeb Bush both continue to have big eyes on 2020; Kelly Ayotte's New Hampshire; Paul Ryan's Wisconsin; and Joni Ernst's Iowa. Given the Democratic "firewall" of consistently blue states, every one of these except Wisconsin is a must-win for Trump, and every one presents the peril of sabotage from within the GOP. In addition, even though John McCain is not in any sense a 2020 contender, there's something going on with Arizona (there's no way McCain's granddaughter comes out with the whole politically polished "I'm With Her" essay without grandpa's seal of approval). That state, the GOP Establishment may deny Trump just for (even more) spite.

A Sad Summation:

In a way it is a shame and a waste, since the GOP Establishment has spent over a quarter-century preparing to take down Hillary Clinton, only to be themselves overtaken by a candidate they themselves see as even worse. Perhaps the rumors are true, that Trump's entire candidacy was prompted by Bill Clinton, in what would be a master move of political chess. But either way, the GOP Establishment has knives out for Trump and a bag of tricks a mile deep to trip him up; and what we've seen so far barely scratches the surface of that.

Note that none of this is intended to pardon Trump's own shortcomings as a candidate, and as a human being of late. It is clear that in the decade since this interview, he has become much less cogent and mentally balanced -- old age being the opponent which ultimately fells all men.

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