Hillary Clinton Killing the Middle Class

"Hey, you believe this goddamn ISIS? Chopping people's heads off, putting people in cages and drowning 'em. We gotta waterboard 'em, don't you agree?"

I tell him I'm not in favor of chopping people's heads off, and ask if he'd sanction waterboarding as president. He begins a rambling answer, then asks the woman across from me if she believes in the practice of waterboarding. And so it goes for the 26 minutes it takes us to fly from New York to Hampton, New Hampshire, where tonight he'll go on in front of 2,500 people, a crowd to thoroughly dwarf the several hundred people who've turned out to watch Jeb Bush and Rand Paul speak in the state. In those 26 minutes, he'll devote some 90 seconds to his typewritten notes, diverted instead by the mentions of him on Fox and the crowd of whims and tangents in his head. To sit alone with Trump is to be whipsawed and head-snapped by his sentences that start and stop, his thoughts that take hard detours or suddenly become questions in midstream. But as I learn in Hampton, exactly none of this will matter once Donald Trump takes the stage. The second those klieg lights hit him, he'll find his maestro voice, that nimble and knowing schoolyard brogue that doesn't miss a trick or a chance to pounce. Besides, he'll say the exact same unscripted things he said in Michigan days earlier and will say again tomorrow at the Iowa State Fair, all of it word for word from memory. You may lament Trump's message, but you can't move him off it. It's like trying to stop a 757.

This past June, Donald John Trump rode down the escalator in the five-story, pink-marble atrium of Manhattan's Trump Tower to declare his candidacy for president of the United States. Since then, he has been mocked and reviled, worshipped and courted, and, till very lately, dismissed as a fever dream of the torch-and-pitchfork segment of the Republican Party. Entering stage far-right with wing-nut invective — the people coming across our border are "rapists" and "killers" who routinely commit "great amounts of crime" — he has dominated the race since the day he got in it and posted a large and durable lead ever since. The caveat: His negatives are through the roof. About a third of registered Republicans likely to vote next year say they'd never pull the lever for him.