As the unsettled political earth shifts again under the nation’s feet, the latest iteration of the dominant conventional wisdom – that nothing Donald Trump could say or do would compel his core voters to reassess their support – is under threat. This is all rather jarring. The commentary class only recently, and under protest, accepted this unnerving truth despite the fact that it contradicted virtually every lesson gleaned from the study of decades of electoral politics. This disorienting state of affairs is, however, nothing compared to the befuddling behavior in which the Trump campaign is engaged. There are not merely “two different Donald Trumps,” as the celebrity candidate’s hapless surrogate Ben Carson famously said; there are two different Trump campaigns. Both exist simultaneously and in a state of conflict, with one continuously undermining the other.

On Monday, an “internal memo” intended for Trump campaign consumption only – wink! – found its way into the hands of reporters. In that document, the real estate mogul’s senior campaign advisor Barry Bennett admonished the press for indulging the idea that Trump had just endured his “worst week ever.” The Trump campaign had been dogged by stories about its mismanagement, its terrible organization, and its failure to secure the loyalty of the delegates it supposedly won at the polls. If the campaign was a mess, the candidate was worse. From appearing to criticize Heidi Cruz’s appearance to his own campaign manager having been arrested for an alleged physical attack on a young female reporter, the Trump campaign’s behavior resulted in hemorrhaging support from women voters. Without them, he would likely be unable to win the GOP nomination outright.

To combat this unwelcome narrative, Bennet noted that the reliably pro-Trump Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll reacted to the Trump campaign’s “worst week” by showing the reality television star’s lead over Ted Cruz expanding. The timing of this memo was inauspicious. Less than 48 hours later, the Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll revealed that Trump had lost his lead for the first time since September. Even according to their own metrics, the Trump campaign’s prospects were dimming.

Though it continued to act as though all was going according to plan, Team Trump has been behaving abnormally. Those members of the professional political class and media personalities invested in Trump’s success have for weeks been advising their candidate to display more presidential behavior. Trump has made it clear he has no intention of striking a sober and serious pose. He’s proudly declared, in fact, that “for just a while longer … I’ll be a little bit unpresidential.” Finally, it seems Trump’s advisors have convinced him to go on a maturity tour. Trump is reportedly preparing to deliver a set of scripted policy speeches focused on education, the military, and his judicial nominating philosophy.

On its face, this is a smart move for the Trump campaign. Never did the candidate receive so many accolades from his skeptics as he did after delivering a scripted speech to AIPAC conference attendees. As our own John Podhoretz noted, Donald Trump has lowered the bar for himself to such an extent that even displaying the ability to read a prepared text from a teleprompter compels some political analysts to coo over Trump’s “presidential” comportment. It is certainly true that another display of basic literacy may force some columnists to make their peace with Donald Trump as the likely Republican nominee. But that person — the rational, reassuring, policy wonk – is a fabrication. The real Donald Trump, who reveals himself in the candidate’s extemporaneous ramblings, refuses to be stifled. Candidates set the tone for their campaigns; not the other way around. The Trump campaign is a reflection of the reality of their candidate, and the reality is just nuts.

In a roundabout and paranoid declaration released to the press on Tuesday night, the Trump campaign set out to plumb new depths in a statement conceding their loss in Wisconsin to Cruz. It may be a tad generous to call this a “concession” statement because there was no concession involved. Instead, the Trump campaign penned a screed in which they directly and without any ambiguity accused the Cruz campaign of engaging in a criminal conspiracy consisting of their illegal coordination with an allied super PAC. Again, the standards for Trumpian discourse are so low that such a baseless accusation may dominate a news cycle or two, but it will soon be dismissed as just another example of the eccentric candidate’s trademark excess. “Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet – he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump,” the statement read. Even beyond its gracelessness, this conspiratorial manifesto is utterly unconvincing – unless you are inclined to believe that the architect of the 2013 government shutdown is, in fact, a Manchurian candidate for the so-called “Republican Establishment.”

This — not the teleprompter-reading affectation on stage at AIPAC – is the real Donald Trump. This is a campaign that no number of consultants or polished Washingtonians with their eyes on the fantastical prospect of a Trump administration can mold into anything even remotely resembling “presidential” material. What’s more, Trump’s schizophrenic tactics come at a cost. Trump allies may not show it yet, but they’re quietly panicked. They know that a first ballot loss means that their man likely fails to win the nomination at the convention, and their candidate just can’t help himself but alienate potential converts to the cause. As for committed Trump voters, they are attracted to the celebrity’s trademark obstinacy and belligerence. They have no affinity for the man behind the teleprompter. What use to them is Donald Trump, the politician, when they came to see Donald Trump, the big top ringmaster?

While it is not quite yet “imploding,” the Trump campaign has hit a rocky patch. As Jonathan Tobin observed, their candidate is finally being held to account for the cascade of nonsense and insults that torrent out of his mouth on a daily basis. Their effort to shift gears is long overdue, but there is a reason for that. Their candidate is incapable of a change in tactics, and to attempt one is an uncomfortable fit. These last two weeks have been bewildering for the Trump campaign. It no longer seems to know what its identity is.

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