Republicans fear Trump’s parade of insults might help cost him the election

Pointed criticism: Donald Trump should ‘focus on Hillary. No one else,’ according to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Photograph: Jan Diehm

Pointed criticism: Donald Trump should ‘focus on Hillary. No one else,’ according to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Photograph: Jan Diehm

What do Rosie O’Donnell, Serge Kovaleski, Megyn Kelly, John McCain, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Gonzalo Curiel, Khizr Khan and Alicia Machado have in common?

All have been on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s insults as the businessman spent more than a year pursuing futile feuds that may go a long way toward costing him the White House.

A chorus of hands slapping against Republican foreheads was almost audible each time the nominee threw off any pretence of self-discipline and lashed out, distracting onlookers from his efforts to present himself as moderate or exploit Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses. This week they are doubtless praying that he doesn’t squander the golden opportunity presented by the FBI’s investigation into a new batch of emails that may be related to Clinton’s private server.

“Trump is on the verge of blowing it,” Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary, tweeted on 30 September. “Free advice: Focus on Hillary. No one else. Hillary is your opponent. No one else is.”

According to a running total compiled by the New York Times, Trump has insulted 279 people, places and things on Twitter alone. Republicans were ultimately forced to conclude that Trump would be Trump, a 70-year-old man who cannot change and has no intention of doing so. They will never know if staying “on message” might have left him running far closer in the polls.

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’

Rich Galen, once press secretary to vice-president Dan Quayle, said his patience ran out in July when the nominee claimed that Gonzalo Curiel, a judge who was born in Indiana, was biased against him in a civil case over Trump University because his parents were from Mexico.

“That was antithetical to everything I’ve worked for in public life,” Galen said.

“It looks like the actual turning point was the Miss Universe woman, which not only offended women but they told their husbands they should be offended too. It’s one thing to diss John McCain but he’s a big boy and can look after himself. When he went after a woman over an image problem, that would unite 90% of women and men and was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Machado won the Miss Universe pageant in 1996. Clinton brought up the largely forgotten case at the end of the first presidential debate, saying Trump had called her “Miss Piggy” and, because she is Latina, “Miss Housekeeping”. To the dismay of his party, Trump took the bait and talked about Machado for days, telling Fox News: “She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”

“He sees the entire universe in terms of how it affects him,” Galen said. “He simply doesn’t have the temperament to be president of the United States. He figured out what the country had been mad about; he was the wrong messenger for the right message.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

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