Trump goes to the gutter in debate: It won’t save him

Wave of scandals over tax returns and lewd audio tapes have left the Republican nominee on the offensive

Joyce Karam
Joyce Karam
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It is increasingly looking like Republican nominee Donald Trump is keeping his options open post-election day - November 8th – as his ambitions to become president keep getting more complicated. His faltering poll numbers and the wave of scandals over his tax returns and lewd audio tapes have left him on the offensive and with nothing to lose.

Trump in last night’s debate in St. Louis did not spare a tactic or an accusation in attacking the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He resorted to the ghosts of Bill Clinton’s past, referenced far right attack lines that bordered on conspiracy theories in slandering his rival as he attempted to salvage his candidacy. Four weeks before the vote, Trump is playing for his base and a segment of the electorate who might be motivated by their hate for Clinton more than their excitement about the real estate mogul.

When British xenophobe and Trump supporter Nigel Farrage compares the Republican nominee performance after the debate to a “big silverback gorilla” who “dominated her” (Clinton), you know something has gone awfully wrong in the 2016 campaign and its rhetoric.

In fact, Farrage’s language was not that far from Trump’s own tasteless lines as he walked, sniffed and interrupted Clinton. Threatening to jail the former Secretary of State if he wins, was a failed attempt to rattle his rival but not as dangerous and deeply uninformed as other claims he made last night.

By going to the gutter and launching an all-out attack on Clinton, Trump is once again acting unbound, with nothing to lose in the last four weeks of the campaign

Joyce Karam

In response to a question on the rise of Islamophobia in the United States, Trump’s response was to blame the community, by saying “Muslims have to report the problems when they see them.” In other words, if Muslim-Americans who are target of hate crimes and increased hostility since Trump started his campaign, “don’t report”, they are not worthy of being protected.

His ignorance on matters of national security and foreign policy, is staggering. Refusing to acknowledge that Russia hacked US systems, despite a clear official accusation from US Homeland Security and intelligence agencies, is alarming. It raises more suspicions around Trump’s connections to the Kremlin, and about his ability to defend US national security.

Even on Syria, Trump disagreed with his Vice President nominee Mike Pence, and defended Russia claiming that “Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS”. Coincidentally, the US has officially launched an investigation into Russian war crimes in Syria, while Doctors without Borders have documented 23 attacks on hospitals in Eastern Aleppo by Russian and Syrian airstrikes.

A narrow path to victory

Trump’s all out debate performance is a subtle acknowledgement that his campaign is in trouble and he is running out of time to do so. The New York Times estimates 693 paths for a Clinton victory this November, compared to 315 for Trump. He is trailing in Florida, Pennsylvania, and now in Ohio, all are must win states for him to have a chance at winning next month.

His political coalition has also shrunk in the last couple of weeks as ranking Republicans started abandoning his campaign, along with women and young voters. But worse his voter coalition is short on math and a ground game against Clinton’s massive operation and fundraising capability. Even among white voters where Trump needs a 22-point advantage on Clinton, the gap is only 13 percent.

Meanwhile the Democrats in key states in Florida and Wisconsin are registering more new voters and have a more visible machine to get out and vote, including early voting that started in Iowa and will begin on Wednesday in Ohio. With minorities being solidly behind Clinton and the Republican establishment focusing its resources on Congressional races instead of Trump, it is hard to see how the Republican nominee can emerge victorious in November.

By going to the gutter and launching an all-out attack on Clinton, Trump is once again acting unbound, with nothing to lose in the last four weeks of the campaign. The final stretch promises to be the most vile and rocky in US political history, but absent of a dramatic change in coalitions and field operations, the hype and the drama will not save Trump.

Joyce Karam is the Washington Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Twitter: @Joyce_Karam

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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