When historians write the the history of the 2016 presidential campaign, they may conclude that Donald Trump‘s unorthodox campaign finally crashed and burned in San Diego.
It’s a long way to November 8, and almost anything can happen, but two events in San Diego have left an indelible mark on his campaign:
- On May 27, in his rally in San Diego, Trump spent 15 minutes attacking a San Diego judge who had courageously prosecuted the Mexican drug cartels. The presumptive Republican nominee claimed U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, was biased in a lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University because he was “Mexican.” It was a racist remark, and it continues to reverberate.
- Six days later, on June 2, Hillary Clinton delivered a foreign policy speech in Balboa Park that many consider the finest of her career. The former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee painted Trump as a clear and present danger to America and the world. She said his foreign policy ideas amounted to “bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.” San Diego, home to the largest concentration of American military forces, was the perfect backdrop.
Trump, the billionaire real estate developer and reality TV star, has re-written the political playbook by running a self-funded campaign with a tiny staff. Instead of TV advertising, he has relied on media coverage and masterful use of Twitter. Instead of issuing position papers drafted by policy experts, he speaks his mind.
His attacks on “political correctness,” vows to build a “great wall” along the border, and criticism of many established politicians have entertained as much as they have outraged. But after that one week in San Diego, it’s different.
Trump had no good comeback to Clinton’s speech. On Twitter, all he managed was to say was that she “doesn’t even look presidential!” The truth is, he really did advocate leaving NATO, letting Japan and South Korea build nuclear weapons, and ordering the military to kill the families of terrorists. Clinton’s speech showed in blunt terms that Trump has little understanding of foreign policy. The would-be emperor has plenty of hair, but no clothes.
The attack on Curiel, followed by another on the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, finally convinced many that there is a fundamental racism in Trump’s message. As House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top elected Republican put it, Trump’s attack on Curiel was “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Trump and his supporters on national talk shows seized on Curiel’s membership in the La Raza Lawyers Association because its name sounds similar to the activist National Council of La Raza. In fact, the San Diego association is a local professional organization with no connection to the national La Raza group. The San Diego association’s mission is professional development and mentoring, and it demanded a retraction from Trump. This was another example of Trump speaking his mind before learning the facts.
Now the national pundits are talking again about a contested Republican convention. New polls, including one from the reliably conservative Fox News, show Clinton leading. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be wavering in his endorsement of Trump.
The voting in the California primary may be an indication of what’s to come in November. Trump won the Golden State’s primary, but even without challengers mustered far fewer total votes than Clinton — only 1.2 million votes to over 2 million.
A landslide for Clinton in the general election is not out of the question after just one decisive week in San Diego.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.