Inside the most disorganized, unscrupulous, self-sabotaging presidential campaign since the last one.
It was a sign of impending doom, to some, when earlier this summer Parscale began coming in more often just as the target on his back swelled to carnival proportions. The polls? Trump trailed his almost-invisible challenger by double digits nationally and by a considerable margin in most battleground states. The messaging? Well, you try to “spin” six months in which 160,000 Americans died and at least 5 million more were infected by a virus you first said wouldn’t be much to worry about. Six months in which your best case for reelection — the greatest economy in the world — was destroyed too. The offense? Trump couldn’t even settle on a nickname for Joe Biden. Was he “Sleepy Joe,” or “Creepy Joe,” or “Beijing Biden”? That tiny Tulsa rally Parscale had organized — which followed weeks of massive hype — preceded a spike in coronavirus infections in the city that, local officials said, was probably born of the event, where the guest list included Herman Cain, who later died. Meanwhile, nationwide, there was civil unrest that Trump, whose political career had begun with a media tour to promote a racist conspiracy theory called birtherism, was unfit to handle. Yet there was an attitude, naïve and cocky, that led Parscale to compare the campaign to the Death Star, ready to fire but with no apparent idea where to aim. What was next? Locusts? How could the circumstances be any worse? The campaign was in a hole so deep it was actually historic — a deficit not just bigger, at this point in the race, than any an incumbent had ever overcome, but bigger than any an incumbent had ever even faced.