The presidency was always Donald Trump's to lose and right now he is losing it -- spectacularly. After roaring out of his convention with a nifty bounce, primarily due to a superbly empathetic speech, the billionaire businessman looked like a president. In a Change Election year, this is the only test a legitimate outsider must pass.
Trump was also handed six big gifts. 1) The WikiLeaks dump exposing the Democrat National Committee's duplicity against Bernie Sanders, 2) Hillary Clinton's disappointing speech, 3) Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe admitting Hillary is lying to the working class and as president will indeed support the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, 4) a 1.2% GDP growth rate, 5) a number of refugee terror attacks in Europe, and 6) the news Monday that President Obama secretly paid a $400 million ransom to Iran's mullahs.
Our corrupt mainstream media can protect Democrats from everything but Reality and Reality is pitching 'em slow and over the plate to Trump. Therefore, he should be enjoying the greatest news cycle of the campaign so far, but instead he's in the dugout screaming on the phone. Screaming at babies and (contemptible) Gold Star parents and Paul Ryan and Kelly Ayotte…
The only good news for Trump is that it's early August.
For months, going back to before Thanksgiving, I have said that the presidency is Trump's to lose. He has the skill-set (and policies) to beat the corrupt media, the Democrats, and the Never-Trumpers. Thus far, he has proven me 100% correct, going so far as to take a post-convention lead against the sociopath Hillary Clinton. But I have also said that in order to win he has to turn it down from an 11 to a 6.5, he must prove to voters that he can become presidential.
My 6.5 means that Trump still remains Trump (this is crucially important) -- the Change Agent, the fearless brawler, the "different" Republican with the counterintuitive skills that correctly tell him to attack the widely despised (among Democrats Trump can pluck) Ted Cruz.
Unfortunately, Trump's 6.5 only lasted for a few hours after the convention.
Listen, I get that Trump is angry at the demagogue Khizr Khan, a father who callously stood on the corpse of his hero son to launch non sequitur attacks at the GOP nominee. In a moral universe, Trump was right to respond to Khan's sickening PC blackmail, right to ignore this disgusting coward holding up his dead son to shield himself from criticism. The same is true for McCain and Ryan and Ayotte.
Yeah, they all got it coming. No question.
Unfortunately, presidential campaigns do not take place in a moral universe. Rather, they take place in the hurly-burly of an unjust media-created world where all that matters is COMPETENCE, where how well you lie and how effectively you hurl false accusations of murder are offered up as proof of said competence.
Voters don't care about honesty or truth. They do care about competence and right now Trump is in day six of a death spiral of incompetence. And this is where he can lose it all.
Trump 6.5 becomes President Trump. Trump 11 becomes the loser who skulks home with the set of steak knives...
If Trump really wants to get back at his enemies, he will prove them spectacularly wrong by immediately getting his act together and showing some presidential discipline. That's not only how he wins the most prized office in the land and goes down in history as the greatest salesman the world has ever seen, it is also how he shoves it up the ass of those out to grind him into dust.
I can think of no greater horror for the prideful Trump than to lose a presidential election he could have easily won and in the process prove all his enemies 100% correct when they said he could never change.
What a humiliating epitaph and legacy.
Trump has two choices: He can get a teleprompter and message discipline, or he can die a punch-line.
He probably has one more chance to prove to voters that he can learn from his mistakes -- voters who desperately want the change he represents. But once voters lose faith in his ability to summon real discipline, the remaining days of the campaign will be the worst of his life.
Trump 6.5 becomes President Trump.
Trump 11 becomes the loser who skulks home with the set of steak knives as all of history points and laughs until the end of civilization. And no one will defend him because those of us who believed he could change will have no choice but to admit we were wrong.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC