Donald Trump rarely, if ever, apologizes. What he does do is damage control, even if he insisted on Sunday that the campaign was going “fantastically well.”
Trump did phone interviews with four Sunday talkshows, save for “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,” that being on the network that he has launched a fusillade of angry Tweets at following Thursday night’s debate in which he was both the star draw and the star target.
How “fantastically well” can a presidential campaign be doing if Trump has to declare, as he did on CNN’s “State of the Union,” that “I cherish women”? Or, on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” that “Women are tremendous”? Or that he insisted on “Face the Nation,” “I will be phenomenal to the women”?
At the Thursday night debate, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked Trump why he had called some women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”
In his answer, Trump replied, “Only Rosie O’Donnell,” before turning his fire on Kelly and political correctness.
As with most things Trump, that was not it. Appearing on CNN on Friday, after a day of Twitter rants about Kelly and of being the debate’s target, he said of Kelly, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her whatever.”
That comment, and all it implied, got him kicked out of Erick Erickson’s conservative RedState conference, which in turn provoked a Saturday of Trump tweets calling Erickson a “loser” and denying that he was commenting on Kelly’s menstrual period. Instead, Trump insisted, he was referring to her nose, and to think otherwise was what a “deviant” would think.
“I wanted to get on [with the interview] so I stopped, rather than say nose or ears, because that’s very common coming from eyes, nose, ears. These are very common. And what it means is that a person is angry. [Kelly] was very angry,” Trump explained to Stephanopoulos.
Carly Fiorina tweeted about Trump’s remarks, saying, “Mr. Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse” and, “I stand with @megynkelly.” Jeb Bush tweeted, “Do we want to insult 53% of Americans? What Donald Trump said was wrong. That’s not how we bring people together.”
He actually started some of the interviews on Sunday by first attacking Bush’s comment last week about women’s health funding, saying Bush “destroyed” his relationship with the female gender.
“And I’ve always had a great relationship to the women,” Trump said on “This Week.” “The relationship has been amazing in terms of thousands of employees, top level employees.”
Trump takes credit for delivering a record cable audience to Fox News’ debate coverage, and he’s more than willing to help their competitors to maximize their audience in the aftermath.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another contender, told the Washington Post that he thinks the party has “crossed the Rubicon, where his behavior becomes about us, not just him.”
Plenty of politicians’ campaigns have been undone by a comment, a remark, even a misinterpreted emotion, like Howard Dean’s “scream” in 2004 or Ed Muskie’s “tears” in 1972.
Three weeks ago, predictions were that Trump, too, was going to suffer the same fate, after a dig at Sen. John McCain’s status as a war hero. Instead, Trump’s poll numbers rose.
If Trump’s numbers don’t erode, there will be plenty more waxing on about what it all means about the electorate, even if it is still early. If they do, then it will fulfill many expectations. More candidates will pile on. Trump will get more desperate. And he’ll probably still insist that his campaign is going “fantastically well.”