Just when it seemed certain that America — or at least a large Republican slice of it — had gone completely mad, the Trumpian night of reckoning came face to face with the now-famous eye roll. OK, it was a small thing, but if you’re among those grasping for hope, this is what you’ve got.
Yes, you have to place it against the colossus that was the Donald’s night, a five-state Northeastern sweep that mocked both the #neverTrumpist movement and the flailing Cruz-Kasich alliance and put Trump ever closer to the GOP nomination. Remember the so-called Trump ceilings? Trump has now won six consecutive states with more than 50 percent of the vote in a three-person race. It takes a Trump-sized ballroom to hold victories that size.
Still, as the kids say, it was a thing.
You’ve probably seen it by now. It came at the end of Trump’s patented victory speech/news conference, in which he routinely gives insight into a would-be Trump presidency with a free-association tour of the Trumpian mind. There has been nothing like it in presidential history, and even when it doesn’t devolve into a Trump Steaks infomercial, it rarely misses a chance to go all Bulworth.
He nearly got away with it Tuesday, though. He said he was the presumptive nominee, and, gosh, he’s close. Asked when he was going to start to act, you know, presidential, he asked in turn, “Why should I change?” He said Lyin’ Ted and one-for-38 Kasich had “no path” to the nomination, and, again, who could argue?
Next week’s Indiana primary may be the last chance to stop Trump. Cruz was already in Indiana, trying to recreate a scene from Hoosiers while pretending the night’s onslaught, in which he was finishing a distant third in race after race, hadn’t happened. It might have worked if Cruz hadn’t called the basketball rim a “ring,” and in Indiana, the basketball mad state, where they must have noticed. Trump gets to Indiana today accompanied by Bob Knight, who won’t confuse a rim with a ring, but who can give Trump lessons in chair-tossing. They’re calling it the bully brigade, and I doubt either would mind.
But first, there was the cap to be placed on Trump’s big night. A reporter asked him about Hillary Clinton playing the women’s card. Clinton had a nearly-as-huge near-sweep herself Tuesday night after which Bernie Sanders offered up a statement that looked to everyone but Tim Robbins like the first step toward a near-concession. And so you knew Trump would never let this opportunity go.
But who knew he would go this far, saying: “I think the only card she has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.”
As Trump offered up his 5 percent solution, we saw standing behind him the Jersey Guys, Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat. Chris once again had his hostage look on, and Mary Pat, who stood bemused, seemed to roll her eyes, give a pained smile, glance toward her husband and then look down.
Was this what every suburban Republican woman was thinking to herself: Did I actually hear what I just thought I heard?
Trump wasn’t done.
“The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card and the beautiful thing is women don’t like her, OK?” He liked the line and so did many women in the crowd, who cheered.
“And look how well I did with women tonight. OK?” he said. It was his get-off line. And as he walked off the stage and the crowd roared, the sound team started playing “Start Me Up,” and all I could think of was Mick singing, “You make a grown man cry.”
If Trump wins in Indiana, and he’s the slight favorite now, and finishes things off in California to hit the magical 1,237-delegate mark, this night will likely be remembered as the true start of the Clinton-Trump race.
In her speech Tuesday, Clinton was already working on her lines, saying that if her campaign is based on playing a woman’s card, deal her in. Trump is right that Clinton has unexpectedly high unfavorables with women, but she ran away with the woman’s vote Tuesday night. And whatever her unfavorables are, they don’t begin to compare with Trump’s.
So, what do you do to start winning back the women’s vote? Let’s just say that if you’re Trump, you don’t do it with a deep dive into policy.
No, you double-down, except for the times that you triple-down. In this case, you go on the morning shows to celebrate your big night by telling the Morning Joe team that you’re still “recovering” from Clinton’s “shouting,” explaining that “I know a lot of people would say you can’t say that about a woman, because of course a woman doesn’t shout.”
And so you remind everyone of the Fiorina face comment and the Heidi Cruz picture-tells-a-thousand-words moment and the Megyn Kelly “wherever” moment. Because that’s — eye roll — apparently how you win the Republican nomination in 2016.
Photo credit: DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons, Flickr.