So let’s walk though this.
Donald Trump stumbled into a racially charged controversy Sunday, saying in an interview on CNN that he didn’t know enough to disavow former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke….
The Sunday uproar started when Trump was pressed by CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” about whether he would disavow Duke and other white supremacist groups that are supporting his campaign.
“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Trump said.
Trump was pressed three times on whether he’d distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan — but never mentioned the group in his answers.
Candidate for the Republican presidential nomination Donald Trump received a statement of support for not-really-former Klan leader David Duke. In response, Donald Trump acted weaselly, instead of forthrightly renouncing Duke, the Klan, and White Supremacy. This, CNN assures us, is a stumble.
Trump’s closest competitors for the Republican nomination are two Latinos, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz had recently been the target of robo-calls from a white nationalist organization urging voters not to support a Cuban. So how did they respond to Trump’s failure to renounce Duke’s support?
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has increased his attacks on the GOP front-runner following last week’s CNN debate, said on his social media accounts: “We cannot be a party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also rejected the comments. He tweeted: “Really sad. @realDonaldTrump you’re better than this. We should all agree, racism is wrong, KKK is abhorrent.”
So, to sum up, Donald Trump’s two main rivals, both of whom are Latino, are now denouncing him in front of the 2016 Republican primary electorate for being insufficiently committed to denouncing white racists. When given a chance to condemn a white racist, they tell us, Donald Trump showed very little motivation, while demonstrating that they would do so as a matter of course.
One reading of the situation is that Donald Trump got in trouble for looking like he was insufficiently opposed to white supremacy, and had to make an embarrassing climbdown. This is how political reporters who thought that Trump’s candidacy was over when he said that John McCain wasn’t a war hero might interpret the story. Those who have been around the block a few times might notice that the candidate who is leading in the Republican primary contest just got his two closest opponents to walk into a trap, casting themselves as eager to denounce white nationalism for their own political advantage, in the middle of a contest in which the Republican primary electorate is falling in line behind Donald Trump because of his willingness to give aid and comfort to white racism, and his refusal to bow to “political correctness.”
Donald Trump has a sharp strategic mind and knows what his audience wants. It is past time to stop thinking that he keeps getting lucky.