This week, Donald Trump saw his favorability ratings sink lower than any previous presidential candidate since 1984, he stumbled to come up with a comprehensible abortion policy and witnessed the prospects of a win in Wisconsin on Tuesday sour more than an old bottle of the state’s milk.
And then he made adjustments. He’s a negotiator after all.
The Republican frontrunner copped to a series of mea culpas over the weekend, something that is exceedingly difficult to do for someone with an ego the size of his.
Trump added events (purposefully smaller and more staid) in Wisconsin—where he trails Ted Cruz by anywhere between 7 and 10 points, depending on the poll. Acknowledging that his rallies have been a hotbed of violence, with more incidents reported by the week, Trump told The Washington Post that he has tried to calm things down.
“We’ve purposefully kept the crowds down this past week,” he said. “You know, we’ve gone into small venues and we’re turning away thousands and thousands of people, which I hate, but we didn’t want to have the protest. You know, when you have a room of 2,000 people, you can pretty much keep it without the protesters.”
He’s still not condemning violence associated with his events, but rather looking for a way to keep it out of the headlines. It’s a start.
This was just one of two apologies he managed to wrench out of his orange-tinged mouth on Saturday. In an interview with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, Trump expressed remorse for manually retweeting an image juxtaposing his wife, Melania, a Slovenian supermodel, with a clearly bad photo of Heidi Cruz, the Texas senator’s spouse.
“Yeah, it was a mistake,” he told Dowd. “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have sent it.”
Of course, Trump has maintained that Cruz is the one who started this vicious fight over the past week, embroiling a host of alleged former mistresses, the tabloid National Enquirer, and notorious rat-fucker Roger Stone.
But at least while he’s losing, Trump seems to be finding ways to say sorry.
And there might be no better time than now to give it a shot. Trump faces a likely defeat in Wisconsin on Tuesday, where the conservative radio host intelligentsia mounted an early and sustained campaign against him. Then he has two weeks to keep the momentum going before seeking a hometown victory in New York, where he leads by massive margins.
For the first time in his campaign, though, it seems that Trump’s impulsivity, his recurring strength, has turned into a weakness.
He landed on five different positions on abortion in the span of three days. During an interview with Chris Matthews on Wednesday, Trump said that women should be punished for getting abortions in a society that outright banned them. Later that day, his campaign said the issue should in fact be decided by states. An hour later, Trump’s campaign released another statement claiming that a doctor performing abortions once they’re banned would “be held legally responsible,” but not women themselves. The next day, a segment from his Sunday Face the Nation interview was released where Trump said that the current laws should remain the same. Later his campaign, like last time, released a preemptive statement before the interview aired saying that the laws would in fact remain the same. Until Trump became president, of course.
Two days later during a mostly placid town hall event with Greta Van Susteren, Trump seemed to adjust the plan ever-so-slightly again. “Look, I’m pro-life,” he said. “With the exceptions.”
Again, taking on a surprisingly conciliatory tone, he delivered one of his favorite lines: “Nobody respects women more than me.”
He then clarified that the “punishment” of which he spoke in the initial interview that started this mess, was simply describing what women themselves go through when getting an abortion.
“Women go through a tremendous punishment of themselves,” Trump said, somehow complicating the answer even more.
Under the gun, when pressed on specific issues, Trump has shown a history of choking. His success in interviews and debates is derived from his ability to filibuster and skirt around the issue like tracing the top of a wine glass.
But at least for a brief span of time this weekend, Trump seemed ready to concede that he doesn’t always get it right, trying to fan the flames he creates instead of dousing them in gasoline.
“I’ll be so presidential, you won’t believe it,” he told Susteren and the town hall attendees on Sunday night.
When that starts is up to him.