Wednesday morning we all got a glimpse of why I've been predicting that Trump will hang himself given enough time and rope. He delivered a lot sooner than expected. I assumed it would happen during the debates. It's OK – it'll probably happen then too. It's going to keep happening until this is over.
There have been dozens of "Well certainly he must be finished now, right?" moments throughout the campaign. Nothing, now that he has won the nomination, is going to "end" his campaign. But the unhinged, half-assed comments inviting Russia to commit espionage to help him dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton are – unlike the other unhinged, half-assed comments so far – are not going to go away. They've undermined one of the only effective plays he had against Clinton.
Personally I couldn't care less about the "emails" pseudo-scandal, but there's no question there was a legitimate (if overblown) point to be made. To people who think that's a big deal, she didn't have much of a valid response to criticisms about what has been deleted, where it was stored, etc. Again, I find this all ridiculous, but to someone suddenly deeply concerned about emails sent years ago then I guess it's an issue one could press.
Now, every single time someone says "emails" the Clinton campaign doesn't have to respond in detail about the minutiae of server space. They can say, over and over again, "I showed bad judgment? I compromised national security? You actively invited a foreign government leak classified material. Who's judgment is questionable here?" And believe me, they are going to run that into the f-ing ground. They are NEVER going to let up on him for this, because even if it's not the most shocking, inflammatory, or outrageous thing he's said it is beyond any doubt the one that shows the most glaring flaws in him. It's the kind of inappropriate that anyone who isn't a Trump die-hard will hear and say, this guy is out of his mind – unless you think the Russians are suddenly popular with middle America.
Nothing hurts Trump per se because his supporters are a cult and they don't care about facts. This doesn't hurt Trump either. But it hurts his ability to attack Clinton. Had he thought about this for more than ten seconds and if he had a modicum of self-control and an adult attention span, he certainly would not have turned his best weapon into a Bugs Bunny gun that shoots himself in the face every time he pulls the trigger. But that's just it: He will never stop himself. He can't stop himself. He can't censor. He can't hide what he is. He is an unserious, petulant child in a bloated adult body. And now every time he tries to attack Clinton and question her judgment, anyone paying attention will be reminded of all of those characteristics and reminded of how dangerous they are in an elected leader.
"His supporters won't care," you say. And you're right. But here's the thing: the core of Trump supporters isn't even as large as the Republican Party, because there are a not-insignificant number of Republicans who can't bring themselves to vote for this guy. They'll either skip the presidential race or waste a vote on Gary Johnson. The united "We must defeat Obama" GOP was not enough to get Romney anywhere close to victory. So how is a portion of the GOP – the Tea Party plus some – going to do it? It isn't. That's why I'm confident, even though Clinton would be toast against a stronger GOP candidate. This guy has zero appeal outside his already fanatical followers. He is running an American version of a far-right European party's campaign, and they get 10-15% support at best. The people who like that message really like it, but it's hard to expand beyond that core. There are no "casual" neo-Nazis. You're in or you're out.
Independent and undecided voters are always overstated during elections, but the few genuine ones that exist are likely to be swayed by just this sort of thing – nothing that requires detailed policy understanding and knowledge. Instead, something that immediately and undeniably shows him to be an dangerously unpredictable fool. Like McCain in 2008, the convention week will prove to be Trump's peak. It's all downhill from here. Remember, people reacted very positively to Sarah Palin for about a week. Then she had to talk, and we know how that turned out.