Does Trump’s presidential effort amount to ‘campaign malpractice’?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for much more on the twists and turns of this presidential race, we turn to Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Susan Page of USA Today.

And welcome to you both.

Tam Keith, we have been listening to this report. How significant is this?

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: It's unclear that this is going to dramatically change anything for the Trump campaign.

In some ways, the idea of some connection to Russia or something has long existed, especially around Paul Manafort, who has a relatively long career of working for not just Yanukovych, but other, you would say, unsavory characters or people who have fallen out of political favor with the U.S. government over the decades.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Susan Page, I mean, we heard some pretty strong language there from The New York Times reporters speaking about venal corruption. It's not a pretty picture.

SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: You got 84 days until the campaign, and every day you spend talking about anything except Hillary Clinton's record or what your own vision of the country is, is a day that's lost.

In addition, I think this opens the doors to more queries about Donald Trump's own financial arrangements with interests in Russia. That's something that we have heard something about. We don't have a lot of details. We may learn more about that in the next couple of months.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there was another newspaper today writing about Donald Trump, Tamara Keith, The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

This is a consistently conservative newspaper, usually very strong language in support of conservative causes. Today, they laid it on the line. They said, Donald Trump, you either get your act together, in so many words, by Labor Day, which is three weeks from now, or turn it over to Mike Pence.

TAMARA KEITH: There is a lot of frustration that is expressed in this editorial that I hear a lot talking to Republicans.

I talked to a Republican pollster today. Now, he worked for Marco Rubio, but he told me that expecting Donald Trump to change is like marrying someone and then hoping they will change later. And, generally, he said, that doesn't work out very well.

I talked to another Republican today who said, well, that teleprompter speech he gave about foreign policy, that was solid.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which he gave today in Ohio.

TAMARA KEITH: Exactly.

He's done several of these teleprompter speeches. And what this Republican said was, let's see how long it lasts. Let's see if he can stay on message a day, two days, seven days, two weeks.

And this person was calling for cutting him loose, for moving millions of dollars to focus on congressional races, and not spend that money on a presidential race.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan, is there particular weight, though, that this come from The Wall Street Journal editorial page?

SUSAN PAGE: It's one more sign of the fracturing of the traditional Republican coalition.

It's the media side, the editorial page side that's been the strongest voice for Republicanism and especially conservatism in the United States. And, in addition, you see the foreign policy establishment associated with Republican presidents breaking away. You see senator after senator, a half-dozen Republican sitting senators, saying they may not vote for Donald Trump.

This is a party that is imploding. And it's a sign of a civil war that we're going to see when this election is over.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tamara, one of the things that the Journal editorial said was, they basically called the Trump campaign incompetent. How do the experts see the campaign compared to Hillary Clinton's effort?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, experts I have spoken to say that this is basically campaign malpractice.

It's not a fully functioning campaign, like you would expect a campaign to function, like a campaign that would win would function. But Donald Trump doesn't want that. It's not like he necessarily can't put it together. He doesn't want to put it together. He over the weekend tweeted repeatedly that he's not changing, there is no pivot.

People just want him to change, but he's not changing. So, in some ways, it's kind of like, you have to listen to him. He doesn't want to run ads. He thinks he can do free media. He's doing — he's running this the way he wants it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Susan, the Trump campaign, you ask them, and they say, yes, we do have an effort under way, we have a plan, we have a strategy.

SUSAN PAGE: So, they don't have the historic vision of a campaign that we're all accustomed to, but I will tell you one number that I think is of great concern to Republicans. And that is, since we started with polling in 1952, the candidate who is ahead at this point two weeks after the conventions are over, has invariably won the popular vote.

So, you're getting to a point where the election starts to get cooked. It's not quite baked yet, but it is like concrete getting set, getting harder and harder. And it takes — it takes more and more power to change what's been laid as you go forward.

This is really — even though we're still in the summer, we're still in August, this is a pretty critical period if you look at elections historically.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I do want to get to Hillary Clinton.

But the polls, Tamara Keith, are showing that it's not just in the battleground states where Hillary Clinton is ahead, but it's in states that Mitt Romney and John McCain won where Donald Trump is having difficulty right now.

TAMARA KEITH: Or where the demographics have changed a little bit since Mitt Romney and John McCain ran.

In a state like Georgia, where it's suddenly looking a little bit more competitive, it — I think that to say that Hillary Clinton can compete in Georgia at this point still seems like a bridge farther than a lot of people are willing to go.

But North Carolina, for instance, is a state certainly where the Clinton campaign believes that they have a chance to win this. And if they can, that would be a huge problem for Donald Trump.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Susan, just quickly, your newspaper had a poll today looking at millennials that vote, young voters under 35.

SUSAN PAGE: And the historic weakness by Donald Trump among these younger voters.

He's only getting 20 percent of the vote of millennials. Now, they are the least reliable voters by age. Older people are more likely to turn out to the polls. But we have never seen a candidate in modern times have that poor a showing of millennials.

And if that trend continues, it will be the third consecutive election where Democrats will have beaten the Republican by double digits among younger voters. And if you look at the long-term future of this party, that starts to set partisan preferences in a way that's really dangerous for the GOP.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Hillary Clinton, Tamara Keith, was out on the trail today with Vice President Biden, working-class Scranton, Pennsylvania, on a day when Donald Trump is out hammering away on national security, on ISIS.

Is she as vulnerable as Donald Trump makes her out to be? He at one point said, she's not capable of handling ISIS.

TAMARA KEITH: He also implied that she may not be healthy enough to handle ISIS. There was a little bit of that in there.

This is an area where sometimes she doesn't talk about it with the urgency that he talks about it, and that might give him a little bit of space. But many polls are now showing that people believe Hillary Clinton does have the temperament on foreign policy in a way that some voters have concerns about Donald Trump.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But he does come back to that language, Susan, time and again, suggesting that she just — she wouldn't be capable, she wouldn't be strong enough to stand up to something like ISIS.

SUSAN PAGE: And if you want to look at the biggest problem Hillary Clinton has, it's that this is an electorate that wants change, wants change in terms of the battle against terrorism, wants change in terms of the growing equality in the U.S. system.

And so there is an argument to be made against Hillary Clinton, who is, as Donald Trump would say, a third term of Barack Obama. The question is, is Donald Trump the person who can prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton?

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tamara, what do we think about that?

Is — because if he does — say he gives a speech about ISIS every other day between now and the election. Can that — is that the kind of thing that can move voters?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, I mean, he would have to do just those.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Speeches.

TAMARA KEITH: He would have to do just the teleprompter, and not the big raucous rallies where he gets — that, really, they fuel him and they give him a ton of energy.

But at those raucous rallies, a more nuanced argument about whether the Iraq pullout should have happened at the pace that it did becomes Barack Obama founded ISIS, and then becomes, you know, a day of doubling down, and then a day of tweeting about sarcasm.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, just quickly, Susan, it's not just that. It's — he will keep coming back to the e-mails, the 30,000 e-mails. He brings it up every chance he gets.

SUSAN PAGE: That's right.

And that is a vulnerability for Hillary Clinton. But her attack on him is that he doesn't have the temperament or the disposition to handle the job of president. And especially when it comes to the issue of commander in chief, that is an argument that has gotten some traction with American voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Page, Tamara Keith, thank you both very much, 85 days to go.

(LAUGHTER)

TAMARA KEITH: Countdown clock.

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