This was the moment Donald Trump finally realized he isn’t going to be president

Donald Trump went to New Hampshire yesterday to take a victory lap after what he must have assumed was a dominating performance at Wednesday night’s debate. In his tried and true “Hey, script, you’re fired” fashion, he ditched his planned speech and instead decided to take questions from his audience at random.

The first one was a doozy:

Here’s question:

We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. Our current President is one. YOU know he’s not even an American….We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?

Rather than correct the man on any part of his statement/question, Trump merely responded “A lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and a lot of different things.”


To be clear, this is Trump’s version of not answering a question. To be clearer, Trump’s version of not answering this particular question validated a WorldNetDaily conspiracy theory at best, and implied that we should seriously consider jailing or deporting every American Muslim at worst.

But even before the man had finished asking his question, it’s clear Trump knew he was in trouble. As he was being reminded of the True Fact that he doesn’t think President Obama is an American — What else could all of that fuss in 2011 have been about? — he joked to the crowd, “We need this question? The first question?” knowing that it was a lose-lose. After all, in Trumpian circles, this guy isn’t a nut: 66% of Republicans supporting Trump believe President Obama is a Muslim; 61% believe that he wasn’t born in the United States. Politically, speaking, he can’t tell all of them that their beliefs about the president — beliefs that are in large part of his own creation — are in fact offensive and insane. To them, that wouldn’t be the Donald “Tell It Like It Is” Trump that they know and love; he’d be just another politician.

After all, this is the Trump they fell in love with:

But there’s a new reality for Trump now — one that didn’t exist when he was sending teams of private investigators to Hawai’i and getting roasted on Comedy Central. Some time between the first and second Republican primary debates, Donald Trump went from believing that he would make a great president to believing he could actually win. That meant changes. That meant signing the RNC’s loyalty pledge. That meant promising to soften his tone about how rapey and murdery Latinos are if and when he’s elected. That meant going from not having time for political correctness to backtracking about calling Carly Fiorina ugly. And that most certainly meant going from being flattered by winning the white nationalist vote to avoiding conspiracy theories about the FBI ignoring Islamic State training facilities within our borders at the behest of our foreign, Muslim, illegitimate president.

Which, given the whole premise of Donald Trump’s candidacy, is impossible.

Between becoming the Republican frontrunner and yesterday’s rally, Donald Trump had never been forced to tackle the glaring contradiction in his attempted transition. He had never considered the fact that you don’t just “decide” to switch from being a fascist demagogue to a democratic statesman. The ideological sewage you wade around in with all of that demagoguery stays with you. Even if you try to leave the sewer, you’ll still smell like shit.

The moment that man told Donald Trump that “YOU know he’s not even an American” was the moment Donald Trump got an inkling of just how bad he smelled.

Now, there’s no reason to believe that this latest comment — one that would end any other presidential campaign — is going to immediately hurt Trump in Republican primary polling. Remember, this is a guy who took the lead by making sure he said something heinous in pretty much every news cycle. But Trump’s reaction to the incident shows that his campaign is at least worried about that possibility.

Immediately following the event, his campaign pushed out a frantic statement reading: “The media wants to make this issue about Obama. The bigger issue is that Obama is waging war against Christians in this country. Their religious liberty is at stake,” which makes no sense given that the question was about the exact opposite of religious liberty — the man explicitly called for the targeted use of force against members of a specific religious group. What’s more, it was the first question of the event, so it’s not like it can be placed in any other context.

Additionally, neither Trump nor any of his spokespeople have responded to the question of whether he agrees with the questioner that President Obama is a foreign Muslim. While this wouldn’t be unusual for any other campaign, the fact that Donald Trump is taking this much time to think about how he wants to answer a question should tell you a lot about how uncomfortable the question’s made him. When Donald Trump called Mexicans rapists and murders, he immediately doubled down. When he said John McCain wasn’t a war hero, he immediately doubled down. I seriously doubt that’s going to happen here.

Because while a majority of Trump’s supporters may say Obama’s a foreign Muslim when asked in a survey if they believe Barack Obama is [insert thing conservatives don’t like here], this was different. And he knows as well as we do that, even if you’ve shown up for a Donald Trump rally, you still don’t want to agree with that guy about pretty much anything:

So again, I’m not saying that yesterday evening’s event will spark an immediate and drastic cratering in Donald Trump’s poll numbers. But I am saying that this feels like the first “What did Trump say now?” moment on the campaign that actually shook the man. It forced him to realize what people hear when he talks.

As someone who looks in the mirror and sees a handsome, classy, luxurious president, he can’t feel good about what he’s only now realizing they’re hearing.

UPDATE: Donald Trump has backed out of tonight’s Heritage Foundation-sponsored candidate forum in South Carolina:

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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70 Responses to “This was the moment Donald Trump finally realized he isn’t going to be president”

  1. Ewa Saunders says:

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  2. Ewa Saunders says:

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  3. fortunev says:

    I bet tRump’s a$$hole tightened up when he heard that zinger.

  4. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Had he been a nicer person, many of my late friends might still be alive.

  5. lynchie says:

    Here is some reading material.

    He started the destruction of unions, cut tax rates on the 1% to 28%. reduced regulation and cut the EPA, he wanted to get rid of the Dept of Education, etc. etcl I could go on but I find nothing decent about this evil, dolt of a man. He has no redeeming attributes and he also brought the Bush family out of the darkness making Bush I vice President.

  6. rhoner says:

    You got some points there!!! To be clear I was just talking about Reagan as a person. He was a reasonably decent person. His presidency, as you detailed, was a FIN disaster.

  7. lynchie says:

    Crazy I agree, volatile I agree, inciting hate and racism I agree but nothing beats the Iran Contra crimes

  8. lynchie says:

    Well Reagan holds that record. 138 in his white house were charged and convicted as criminals. In addition he delayed release of the Iran hostages to use that against Carter and committed treason by trading arms for money and passing them along to the terrorists using Oliver North. I am no fan of
    Trump who is an egotisocal asshole but so far as I know he hasn’t committed any crimes on a scale that is even close.

  9. Don Chandler says:

    That’s a link to the film/video/tape/youtube/whatever you want to call it. It’s from a perspective you can handle.

  10. rhoner says:

    Hilarious article. Loved it. Keep ’em coming Jon Green.

  11. rhoner says:

    We might not agree with Reagan on policy or might think he didn’t get much done as president but at least he wasn’t a total scumbag like trump. Trump, truly, is the worst.

  12. lynchie says:

    There is no film. Even if there was it does not mean anything

  13. Don Chandler says:

    Go watch the film. You’ll understand better.

  14. Don Chandler says:

    I liked Tapper’s comment about 22,000,000 voters watching the last republican debate. Thanks for the link. Not sure why Debbie is the last holdout or should even be able to trump all the candidates and voters.

  15. lynchie says:

    Let me correct you there is no video as the liar Fiorina described. That was right wing christian bullshit. How did that go to animal experiments. Fetal tissue is harvested for the stem cells which have been shown to regrow organs and nerves. Abortion rights are on the retreat because of right wing christians who want women to go back to the kitchen serve their dinner and get their beer. Take you anti abortion bullshit and go back to wherever you crawled out form. Without the man;’s sperm no pregnancy. dont put the responsibility on women. I am sure that you fell rape victims are asking for it.

  16. Don Chandler says:

    Well, here’s a sample of Fiorina’s emotional argument on fetal tissue and abortion:

    Fiorina stated, “[A]nyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’ This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”

    It’s hard to not feel something…even if it’s only for the doctor asking the question. I’ve always hated experimentation on animals. It’s a horrible practice. People point out that it benefits humanity and the drug world but it’s also dehumanizing to us chimpanzees or dogs in experiments without regard for their existence.

    The issue isn’t going away. It will be a passionate issue.

    The argument that men lost their rights when they didn’t wear a condom may sound good to you, but the reality is both men and women have a say on the matter in politics. Abortion rights are certainly on the retreat in many states. I looked at some of the trends, and fewer women are getting abortions these days. Here is a site on Abortion Trends:

    Not sure how to parse it all. But Fiorina hit a nerve.

  17. lynchie says:

    different name same policies. all bought and paid for by the 1%

  18. lynchie says:

    But it the women’s right to choose. Men lost their rights because they didn’t wear a condom or take protection. I don’t think Planned Parenthood matters a hoot to the left or undecided’s

  19. lynchie says:

    The Dems are waiting for Debbie to give in to more debates. She was roundly booed in New Hampshire last night

    Debbie left the stage

  20. lynchie says:

    Don’t forget his lack of support for the black community.

  21. lynchie says:

    XL filled with mayonaise

  22. lynchie says:

    You think anyone on Trumps staff ever survives a disagreement with Donald? Everything he has done has been about massaging his ego. The Trump brand is what drives him. On the world stage he better prepare for being told to STFU by a vast number of countries. His only solution then would be to what…..nuke them?

  23. lynchie says:

    Reagan was a product of behind the scenes handlers. He ratted out fellow actors and writers in the Commie Scare days and never had a thought that was original. He was the face of the 1% getting control of the Congress and Presidency

  24. Bill_Perdue says:

    Poor, poor Democrats. Asleep at the wheel.

  25. Bill_Perdue says:

    True, but the same general phenomenon is having an impact on Democrats. People are running away form them in droves which is why they lost the last three Congressional elections and why the vote for both parties declined again in 2012.

    The time when the owners of both parties – the rich – could sit back and comfortably donate to both and not worry about elections providing political stability to ensure their rule is over.

    Let the games begin. Spartacus will win this time.

  26. AKRNC says:

    I would not be surprised to hear, within the next decade, an announcement from Trump’s family that he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimers’ Disease. He’s completely disassociated from the reality of how he appears to rational, intelligent people.

  27. Sharon Patterson says:

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  28. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Speaking as someone with a brown skin, he scares the hell out of me.

  29. Jim Olson says:

    Alzheimers or pathological narcissism. It’s all the same; clouding the sufferer’s view of reality.

  30. Jim Olson says:

    And yet, I think it is still possible that in fact, he will win the General. The genius, you see, is that he’s actually saying what a lot of America thinks. He doesn’t have the sense not to, and it empowers people like the questioner. There is a LOT of anti-latino/hispanic, anti-muslim animus out there, and even otherwise reasonable people are genuinely afraid of either Spanish or Arabic becoming the dominant language here, maybe even both.

  31. emjayay says:

    A physical trauma can have effects on the brain and entire body that would not happen in a younger person. I’m not sure that medical science understands this phenomena, but it certainly does recognize that it happens all the time.

  32. ComradeRutherford says:

    Why didn’t Trump just say what he thinks, he’ll order police to round up all muslims and execute them.

  33. 2karmanot says:

    Trump can make America Cheap Again.

  34. Charles Carey says:


  35. Charles Carey says:

    My first reaction was as stated in this article. Upon reflection–Trump will gain in the polls. Why? First, his followers are true believers. Next, his tweet that he is under no obligation to defend Obama and that Obama wouldn’t defend him will resonate among the R primary voters. Smart move on his part. I did not think that he would dodge this bullet , but he has. We shall see.

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  37. Bill_Perdue says:

    The central question here is the effect of the wars by the US military, directed by the Bushes, Clintons and Obama that have, time and time again, led to orchestrated mass murder of civilians in a dozen or so Arab and muslim nations and genocide in Iraq. They all war criminals. Their blatant criminality produced the islamophobia that infests both parties.

    Likewise, Sanders is also a supporter of their criminality because he voted for these measures:

    • Nov. 21, 2013 S 1197 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 Yea

    • Sept. 21, 2010 S 3454 2010-2011 Defense Authorizations Yea

    • Oct. 22, 2009 HR 2647 2009-2010 Defense Appropriations Conference Report Adopted Yea

    • July 10, 2008 Nomination of General Petraeus as Military Leader of the Middle East – Yea

    • Oct. 1, 2007 HR 1585 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 Yea

    • June 20, 2006 HR 5631 Defense Department FY2007 Appropriations Bill Yea



    Those wars and the racist murders of at least six Arab and muslim Americans by Obama are the origin of the racist question directed at Trump and the decidedly racist war policies of both parties and their leaders.

  38. Bill_Perdue says:

    Which is which? :)

    They’re not the same in that they’re distinct groups of political gangsters and prostitutes for sale to the highest bidder, but that’s the limit of their differences. Neither the Democrat or the Republican party is fascist. Both are tawdry, run of the mill right centrists. Trumps racsim doesn’t make him a fascist any more than Obama racist deportation of over two million immigrant and imported workers makes him a fascist.

    They have the same politics on most major questions, including wars of aggression, support for colonialism in Palestine, the Arab and muslim countries and in Africa, a 40 year long refusal to pass anti-discrimination laws when they have a chance to become law, rabid union busting, border racism, pandering to killer cops by refusing to arrest and prosecute them and a 40 year record of attacks on the standard of living of working people. They cooperate fully on their join efforts to put the finishing touches on a police state.

    They are the same in the sense that both are anti-democratic and racist, neither have even a semblance of a democratic internal life and most damning of all, both are 100% in favor of capitalism and it’s latest incarnation as a police/warfare state.

    A few Democrats, including BS, want to combine that, as LBJ did, with a welfare state, but most oppose any measures to ease the fall of most workers into poverty. In any case, its a silly idea. This is the age when both are ending the welfare state and imposing austerity.

  39. race bannon says:

    And then today Trump does this,
    Trump Campaign Adds Second Position to Website: Guns

  40. greaser1977 says:

    GLORIOUS TO WATCH THE TATANIC MEETS HIS ICEBERG ..and as for the hateful Klan member in the audience…….at leat its the begining of the end.

  41. Badgerite says:

    So far he has agreed that we should round up Latin Americans, Muslim Americans.

    When does it start to include just Americans who don’t agree with him? This is pretty nasty stuff he’s dabbling in.

  42. BeccaM says:

    I’ve been there for months.

  43. 2karmanot says:

    Or Le Petite Bush for that matter.

  44. 2karmanot says:

    Well done, except for “The two parties are the same.” They are not the same, though they share many basic p[propaganda techniques. One Party is avowedly fascist although couched in terms of neo-liberalism. The other is decidedly anarchist and anti-American.

  45. BeccaM says:

    I’m with you on this, Baal. Moreover, Trump isn’t just a never-elected self-inflated businessman. I genuinely think his narcissism and egomania are pathological.

    Yeah, sure, he’s managed to harness them to the point of making a lot of money (and avoiding any accountability whenever he’s fucked up and gone bankrupt). But a man not just figuratively but literally incapable of admitting he’s ever made a mistake or been less than 100% perfect and right… I’d say he’s demonstrably crazier.

  46. Don Chandler says:

    Well, in the general election, it’s often the undecided voters that make a president. Very few undecided voters care a wit about Muslims…well, maybe they like Ahmed Mohamed. But the undecided voters are going to be swayed by other issues…maybe boots on the ground. Tax issues. Shutting down government. The latest disaster and it’s management or mismanagement. It’s possible that they will feel emotions over abortion and the “experimentation” factor. Abortion is painful to think about for many liberals and conservatives alike. Kind of why we call it a women’s right to choose ;) I think it’s pretty obvious that Planned Parenthood is a big emotional issue for Republicans–maybe undecideds too.

  47. Baal says:

    One thing we know — Vitter loves him some diapers.

  48. Baal says:

    Bad as Reagan was (I remember it vividly and only W has been worse in the last 70 years), he had been Governor of California before he was President. He had done things throughout his life where he had to accept authority and people could tell him “no” with impunity. And that’s why I think Trump, who has had completely different life experiences, is actually crazier.

  49. Demosthenes says:

    Pres. Obama loves attacking Mr. Trump. So do all other Democrats. They want him and his horrible (and sadly numerous) supporters to epitomize the GOP.

  50. Baal says:

    I think Trump would build concentration camps and they’ll be terrific. Terrific and classy, better than any of the concentration camps anyone has seen before. His solution will be more final than anyone else’s ever, much more final and much more of a solution and anybody who tries to come up with a solution after his final one is a stupid loser.

  51. BeccaM says:

    I’m glad people are finally using the right words to describe the Trump phenomenon. ‘Fascist demagoguery,’ for one. Much of the time, Trump just spouts an endless stream of incoherent generalities and narcissistic egomania. Every now and then though, he seems to remember he needs to pander to his supporters…and as many of us have known for a while now, a whole lot of his supporters are the worst of the worst in terms of being vile human beings.

    The audience guy literally repeated an anti-Muslim conspiracy theory and called for a pogrom (in the exact dictionary definition of the word) — and Trump praised the question and said the issue needed dealing with.

    And Jon, I’d go further than your characterization that what was being suggested included jailing or deporting all American Muslims. The phrase “get rid of them” usually implies something far more drastic and violent, at least it certainly has in the past.

    Sure, Trump tried to do the usual non-answer politician’s shuffle, but he failed to recognize in time that his reply validated both the premise of the question and the racist bigot’s proposed ‘Final Solution.’

  52. BeccaM says:

    As I recall, Reagan’s cognitive abilities — including memory, cognition, and general coherence — were never the same after the assassination attempt. I honestly think he was never more than a figurehead president after that.

  53. BeccaM says:

    Among the GOP base, perhaps, and beginning in only from the edge of the bell-curve currently occupied by the avowed racists, bigots, and brownshirts. They may control the Republican party at this point, but they’re a minority of a minority in terms of voting plurality.

  54. Badgerite says:

    I think so.

  55. Don Chandler says:

    If anything, he’s stolen the headlines from Fiorina by using Hussein as a foil. Trump is a lightning rod for the GOP. Hardly any news on the other side.

  56. Indigo says:

    Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, John B. Anderson, 1980 Republican convention. The divorced B movie actor took home the prize and was swept into the White House. The idiocy of that time is why I don’t believe Trump is out of the race. He’s no crazier in today’s terms than Reagan in those days.

  57. 2karmanot says:

    Can we say, D-list ‘Mussolini’ now?

  58. 2karmanot says:

    Well, I guess the Trumpster is paddling up Merd Creek without Carli Fiorina., now that she’s a beautiful woman and all.

  59. Jon Green says:

    That was…kind of my whole point. There’s no reason to believe that this fundamentally changes the Republican primary, but now at least Trump is aware that he isn’t going to win the general — something I think he genuinely believed a week ago.

  60. beltman713 says:

    Almost everyone where I work are right-wing nuts and they all love Trump. This will just make them love him even more.

  61. Badgerite says:

    The Donald is a horrible person. Character matters in a president. The Donald has none. He is the classic demagogue. And he lies a lot. Unlike the man who asked the question I know that for Donald Trump his birther crap was just a pose to get people like that to support him. And people like that are not what made America great. 28 Muslims were killed when the Trade Towers came down on 9/11.
    From a janitor to someone who worked for Pitney Bowles. He encourages and brings out the worst in our society. And worse, he means to.

  62. Bill_Perdue says:

    Reagan behavior in office, from early in his administration, raises the question of how long Alzheimers determined his role in the WH.

    At the time I thought he was just a senile cretin whose strings were constantly being yanked at by his cabinet and ‘aides’. I’ve seen nothing to change my mind about that.

  63. nicho says:

    And the effect on the so-called Democrats might be less than everyone imagines. Reagan was a racist, xenophobic, anti-worker, anti-environment douchebag — and scads of “Reagan Democrats” kept him in office.

  64. dommyluc says:

    This would have an effect on the general Presidential election in 2016, but as far as the Republican primary, I think you are being VERY naïve, Mr. Green. The rabid Teabagger base loves this shit like Vitter loves diapers. The only Trump rival who has called him out on this is Christie, and he doesn’t have anything to lose because he doesn’t have a Inhofe snowball’s chance in Hell of winning, and I expect only the losers will challenge Trump. Carson, Rubio, Gnarly “Look at the lines on my face that I was so proud of I had plastic surgery done to reduce them” Fiorina, JEB?!, and the rest of the top tier are not going to even think about offending the rabid base or, by extension, Trump himself, on this issue.

  65. nicho says:

    If they go down, it won’t be because of this. People who live in a political-geek bubble need to get out and talk, and especially listen, to real people and not other political geeks. There are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who don’t disagree with this.

    When I was running a newspaper years ago, I used to make my new reporters go out and ride the bus all over the place with instructions to just listen (1) to what people were talking about and (2) to what they were saying about it. Invariably, it both were much, much different from the conversation they have with their colleagues and old college buddies.

  66. Demosthenes says:

    Shocking! Amazing! The Donald’s supporters are racists and birthers! Wow!

  67. Bill_Perdue says:

    Trump is a buffoon, a misogynist, a union buster and a racist. That will increasingly have an impact.

    His racist response to this incident is not unlike that of Bill Clinton and HRH HRC seven years ago.

    “Hillary Clinton’s Campaign IEDs (Insinuations, Exaggerations and Distortions) – The Clintons have built their entire political lives on the premise that if they can’t win pretty, they’ll settle for winning ugly. … “Is Obama a Muslim.” Hillary was asked on 60-Minutes. “No. Not as far as I know,” she replied”'s_campaign_ieds_(insinuations,_exaggerations_and_distortions)

    “Hillary Struggles Against Sexism But Regularly Plays Race Card – In the face of raw, media-driven misogyny, Clinton resorts to playing the race card and loses some women’s support in the process. “Yet what is most troubling is that the Clinton campaign has used her rival’s race against him. In the name of demonstrating her superior “electability,” she and her surrogates have invoked the racist and sexist playbook of the right… seeking to define Obama as too black, too foreign, too different to be President… the Clinton campaign’s use of this strategy has many non-white and non-mainstream feminists crying foul. … the statement was widely read as chalking up Obama’s win to his blackness alone and thus attempting to marginalize him as a doomed minority candidate with limited appeal. Obama was now “the black candidate,” in the words of one Clinton strategist quoted by the AP.”

    The racist theme begun by Bill Clinton in South Carolina was doubled down in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, this time by Hillary Clinton. USA Today 05 08 2008 “Clinton: Obama Not Winning Over “Hard-Working Americans, White Americans” “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

    The two parties are the same.

  68. beltman713 says:

    His poll numbers will probably go up.

  69. Houndentenor says:

    This is nothing new for Trump. He’s been a birther for years now. Also, everything he says or does that pundits predict will end his campaign just makes his poll numbers go up. The Republican party is full of idiots. It wasn’t always, but they are the majority of the party now.

  70. nicho says:

    Long ago, Jon, you may not remember, Ronald Reagan visited a cemetery for Nazi soldiers, laid a wreath, and said the Nazis were the equivalent of the victims of the Holocaust. Republicans and “Reagan Democrats” still loved the bejeezuz out of him. Never underestimate the idiocy of the American public.

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