Donald Trump’s "joke" that "Second Amendment people" might have a way of stopping Hillary Clinton, or her Supreme Court nominations, from abolishing gun rights, was the last straw for the New York Daily News, which published a front-page spread calling for Trump to drop out of the race altogether.
"When Trump hinted gun rights supporters shoot Hillary he went from offensive to reckless. He must end his campaign," the Daily News published Wednesday morning in light of Trump’s explosive comment at a North Carolina rally Tuesday.
The New York Daily News isn’t the only one calling for Trump to end his campaign. On Wednesday, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that almost one in five registered Republicans wanted Trump to drop out of the race; 70 percent want him to stay in, and 10 percent said they were unsure. Almost 44 percent of all registered voters want him to drop out, the poll found.
While the Republican nominee was mostly able to brush off controversy throughout the primaries, now that he's the party’s official nominee, it seems his heedless — whether feuding with Muslim Gold Star father Khizr Khan or vaguely insinuating that voters should lash out at Clinton or Supreme Court judges with violence — is escalating the arguments against him.
But whatever is driving more and more Republicans to become vocal in their opposition to Trump, there’s no sign that he will step down from his position as the nominee or that the GOP will go to any serious lengths to depose him. Many "Stop Trump" efforts have been vocal protestations at best — and many Republicans running for office know they need Trump’s supporters to get through this election.
Trump has a habit of speaking recklessly, but it’s getting him in more trouble these days
Trump has a habit of drumming up controversy to stay in the spotlight — after all, it’s part of what rocketed him to his primary win. But while Republican primary voters seemed largely unfazed by his racially charged or sexist gaffes (and establishment conservatives continued to delude themselves that Trump wouldn’t be the nominee), Trump’s say-whatever-comes-to-mind strategy doesn’t seem to be working as well in the general election.
One member of Congress, Rep. Richard Hanna (New York), has endorsed Clinton. Other active Republicans haven’t gone so far as to say they are voting for Clinton but say they won’t back Trump, like Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Ted Cruz (Texas). House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have both found themselves denouncing Trump’s comments about a Hispanic American judge and Khizr Khan’s Democratic convention speech despite endorsing him.
The idea of Teflon Trump might very well prove to be a myth, as Vox’s Matthew Yglesias argued in May:
Trump gets criticized, and much of the criticism sticks — driving the public to a deeply negative view of him.
You see the same thing at the elite level. Most elected Republicans are supporting the Republican Party's presidential nominee. But some are not, including Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, a number of other elected officials are taking the odd position that they support Trump but aren't endorsing him.
This stuff all takes perhaps less of a toll on Trump than one might like. But the toll is very real. The result of saturation-level media coverage of Trump is that he is very well-known and very unpopular. The criticism sticks.
There’s no question that this "dump Trump" rhetoric from within the candidate's own party will make it even harder to push for party unity come November.