(This was mostly written before Trump's feral Arizona speech.)
In Mexico today, Donald Trump wasn't such a tough guy:
Donald J. Trump met in Mexico on Wednesday with President Enrique Peña Nieto.... In a subdued joint appearance before the press in Mexico City, the two men described the meeting as warm....
Mr. Trump, first reading slowly from a statement and then speaking more freely in response to a question, said he now considered Mr. Peña Nieto a friend and heaped praise on Americans of Mexican descent. Mexican-Americans, Mr. Trump said, were “beyond reproach” and “spectacular, hard-working people.” ...
Mr. Trump said the two did not discuss the issue of forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall — one of the signature promises of his campaign.
Mr. Trump said the subject of a border wall came up, but not who would pay for such a massive construction project.
Except that Peña Nieto said that wasn't true:
... Mr. Trump’s efforts at diplomacy in a meeting with Mexico’s leader, Enrique Peña Nieto, quickly backfired: Mr. Trump said that the two men did not discuss financing for the wall, one of his signature immigration issues, while Mr. Peña Nieto said later on Twitter that at the start of their meeting, “I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
The two stood at side-by-side podiums with a Mexican flag in the background. There was no U.S. flag.
If that had happened at a meeting between Peña Nieto and Hillary Clinton, the right would be whining about it for the next fifty years.
Before the trip, Michael Tomasky predicted that Trump will pay a price with his base for going wobbly on this issue:
... if they give Trump a pass on this stunning a flip-flop on the hard right’s core issue, these people are pathetic. My instinct is that they won’t, or enough of them won’t. None of these people will be Hillary voters, of course, but some may stay home, distraught that their hero caved into the very same dark forces he won their ardor by maligning. Illegal immigration is The Big Issue for the hard right. Has been for a decade. It was the No. 1 issue for Tea Partiers, despite much media misunderstanding about this; Tea Partiers viewed immigrants as a bunch of freeloaders.
If Trump drops deportation in his big speech Wednesday night, it’s hard for me to see how he doesn’t lose huge chunks of that base. Even if he speaks words something like “I’m not dropping deportation” but then proceeds to outline steps that smell like he’s dropping deportation, he’ll lose big portions of the base....
But I'm with Digby on this:
Honestly, I don't think so. They don't like him because of policy. They like him because of attitude.
If he softens his immigration position, according to this poll, 48% of Trump supporters say they'll be more likely to support him, while only 27% of non-Trump supporters say the same. Only 15% of Trump supporters say they'll be less likely to support him, while 34% of non-supporters say it will make them less likely.
Trump's people like Trump, and apparently nothing, even this, will change that.
Digby says that the reverse is also true -- that the people who dislike Trump won't fall for the softening:
Tomasky correctly points out that all those racist policies from the primaries are hurting him badly with college educated whites (as well as people of color, obviously) which is why he's attempting to "pivot." But again, it's hard to believe those folks will believe it. Trump's character and personality are not obscure. His completely over exposed on TV and they all saw what he was at the Nuremberg Convention in Cleveland. His fundamental grossness is clear to everyone.
But old-guard Republicans are going to try their damnedest to change that, as are mainstream-media journalists and other political insiders. The MSM journalists desperately want Trump to stop embarrassing their friends in the GOP establishment; they also want a horse race, and they want to see Hillary Clinton suffer, because they loathe her even if many of them plan to vote for her.
Trump will probably go back to being Trump again soon, which will keep the base satisfied but remind Trump haters of why they loathe him. Before that, however, he'll get a bump from this. He won't lose the base, and he'll gain some gullible voters in the middle, who'll think he's civilized now, because mainstream pundits tell them so.
The Arizona immigration speech is going on as I speak. John Aravosis is right:
What we've seen today is that Trump is still Trump -- except when he's face-to-face with the people he's so unafraid to criticize at a safe distance. Maybe that should be the message: Trump talks a big game about confronting people, then he meets those people and wimps out. The art of the deal? Call it the art of the kneel.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog