WSJ to Trump: Start acting presidential or exit race

Trump reads the Wall Street Journal at a rally in Jacksonville, Fla. (Daron Dean/Reuters)
Trump reads the Wall Street Journal at a rally in Jacksonville, Fla. (Daron Dean/Reuters)

Donald Trump spent the weekend lashing out at the media over what he called “dishonest” coverage of his campaign. But the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board is getting tired of the Republican nominee’s anti-media tirades, saying that Trump has no one to blame for his flailing presidential bid but himself.

“Mr. Trump prefers to watch the cable shows rather than read a briefing paper,” the Journal said in a scathing editorial published online Sunday night. “He thinks the same shoot-from-the-lip style that won over a plurality of GOP primary voters can persuade other Republicans and independents who worry if he has the temperament to be Commander in Chief.”

The editorial is striking because the Journal has a reliably conservative opinion section. However, the newspaper has taken pointed barbs at Trump in the past.

“He also thinks the crowds at his campaign rallies are a substitute for the lack of a field organization and digital turnout strategy,” the Journal continued. “And he thinks that Twitter and social media can make up for being outspent $100 million to zero in battleground states.”

Earlier Sunday, the real estate mogul railed against the New York Times over a report that detailed failed attempts by advisers to change his tone.

“The failing @nytimes talks about anonymous sources and meetings that never happened,” Trump tweeted early Sunday morning. “Their reporting is fiction. The media protects Hillary!”

“The failing @nytimes, which never spoke to me, keeps saying that I am saying to advisers that I will change,” he continued. “False, I am who I am — never said.”

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But the Wall Street Journal said its sources appear to substantiate the Times’ account.

“Mr. Trump’s advisers and his family want the candidate to deliver a consistent message making the case for change,” the Journal’s editorial board writes. “They’d like him to be disciplined. They want him to focus on growing the economy and raising incomes and fighting terrorism. They think he should make the election a referendum on Hillary Clinton, not on himself. And they’d like him to spend a little time each day — a half hour even — studying the issues he’ll need to understand if he becomes President.”

But Trump’s apparent stubbornness has led to a day of reckoning for the Republican Party and its nominee.

“Those who sold Mr. Trump to GOP voters as the man who could defeat Hillary Clinton now face a moment of truth,” the Journal concludes. “If they can’t get Mr. Trump to change his act by Labor Day, the GOP will have no choice but to write off the nominee as hopeless and focus on salvaging the Senate and House and other down-ballot races. As for Mr. Trump, he needs to stop blaming everyone else and decide if he wants to behave like someone who wants to be President — or turn the nomination over to Mike Pence.”

One reason for the Journal’s growing impatience is that Trump’s window for a turnaround appears to be closing. And if history is any indication, it’s practically shut.

“No candidate in Donald Trump’s position at this stage of the campaign has gone on to win the popular vote in November in the modern polling era,” Politico reported Monday. “Those who have studied presidential campaigns since 1952 — the advent of modern polling and TV — aren’t writing off Trump yet. But they say that time is running short for Trump to reverse the trajectory of the race before voters’ preferences become locked in.”

“When you come out of the conventions, the leader in the last 16 elections has not lost the popular vote,” University of Texas professor Christopher Wlezian told Politico.

According to RealClearPolitics’ most recent average of national polling data, Hillary Clinton has opened up a 7-point lead over Trump (48 percent to 41 percent) among likely voters. Following last month’s Republican National Convention, Trump held a 1-point lead over the former secretary of state in RCP’s poll average.

“Short of a metamorphosis, Trump is likely to be trounced,” S.E. Cupp, conservative commentator, wrote in an op-ed for New York’s Daily News, a tabloid fiercely critical of Trump. “Those of us on the right who denounced Trump early, it wasn’t just that his campaign and policies were repugnant — it was that his anti-‘everyone else’ rhetoric was going to make it impossible for him to win in an ‘everyone else’ general election.”

There are a “handful” of opportunities left for the real estate mogul to mount a comeback — including the upcoming presidential debates, the first scheduled for Sept. 26.

But many voters will have made up their minds before then, if they haven’t already.

“[It’s] substantially baked,” Wlezian told Politico. “Not everybody’s locked in, but there’s a lot of voters locked in now.”

Trump, though, blames the media for cooking the electorate.

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“If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn’t put false meaning into the words I say,” Trump tweeted on Sunday afternoon, “I would be beating Hillary by 20%.”

“Mr. Trump is right that most of the media want him to lose, but then that was also true of George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan,” the Journal said. “It’s true of every Republican presidential nominee. The difference is that Mr. Trump has made it so easy for the media and his opponents.”