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The Trump campaign is in trouble—but here’s why he could still win

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump speaks at the Saint Andelm College New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire June 13, 2016.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump speaks at the Saint Andelm College New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire June 13, 2016.

Every conventional warning sign and obstacle seems to be lining up against Donald Trump's quest for the presidency right now.

Monday was a particularly rocky day with a laundry list of all the red flags for a campaign in trouble and disarray.

First, he fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Then came the resignation of Trump's New York campaign director Michael Caputo after he tweeted "Ding dong the witch is dead!," quoting "The Wizard of Oz," following Lewandowski's ouster.

Oh, and that's not all.

Then came news that Trump's campaign only raised about $18 million in all of May, less than half of what Hillary Clinton's campaign raked in. That's not supposed to happen after a presidential candidate wraps up his party's nomination.

Speaking of that nomination, there was also news that an increasing number of GOP delegates are ready to launch at least a symbolic revolt against Trump at the Republican National Convention next month in Cleveland.

Oh and speaking of that convention, the last 48 hours or so brought the news that Apple would not be sponsoring or providing any technical support for the GOP convention in protest of Trump's positions on trade and immigration.

And on top of all that, you can find a series of columns in major newspapers calling Trump a fascist demagogue and even mentioning his name in comparison to Adolf Hitler. A lot has changed in the world since 1945, however being compared to Hitler is still just about the worst thing that can happen to you. The full force of the mainstream media is so mobilized against Trump that most outlets seem unafraid to put five, six, or even a dozen anti-Trump pieces on their homepages at any given time.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln …

Even half of the above factors should make almost any candidate think very hard about calling it quits. But there are three things that should give anyone writing the Trump campaign's obituary a little pause:

1. In politics, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. If you can weather the hits in the political arena without dropping out of that arena, you suddenly become the entity that can't be killed. By a funny coincidence, Trump is running against a perfect example of that fact in Hillary Clinton. She's absorbed about three decades' worth of scandals and attacks without ever going away. The coalition of every establishment power from the news media to Wall Street to senior members of his own party makes Trump an underdog as opposed to some kind of larger bully.

And that establishment has essentially already gone nuclear on Trump, pulling out that Hitler card and everything else. It's hard to imagine anything else possibly hurting him more. While Trump trails Clinton in all the polls, he's still only behind by about half of the margin he trailed her less than two months ago. With all the massive factors running against him, you have to wonder why she's not ahead of Trump by 20 points in those polls. In the battleground states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and even Pennsylvania, Trump is doing much better than he is nationally. And all of this despite the fact that Trump still lacks a significant state-by-state ground operation, which is reportedly a key reason why Lewandowski was booted. The post-Lewandowski Trump campaign organization should easily improve on those gaps in the machine. Besides, voters don't care about campaign managers.

2. The calendar. We're 4 ½ months away from election day. That's an eternity in politics, and a month before the GOP convention is a pretty good time to transition from strategies that worked in the primaries to a new focus. Losing Lewandowski, who has a long history of combative and brash behavior, should make Trump's promise last night to run a "different kind of campaign" easier to keep. The trick is to jettison what isn't working for the Trump campaign right now without losing the masterful messaging that's brought them this far. That's another place where the calendar helps, as these four weeks before the convention should give Trump enough time to road test a new strategy.

3. It's still all about Trump. Hillary Clinton is a candidate with about 25 years of experience in national politics… and she still only seems to get attention when she's talking about Trump. What Trump says and does has dominated all news coverage in the U.S. and much of the world for months. Even after what's looked like a terrible couple of weeks for Trump, even Clinton's Twitter feed is dominated by comments and links that are all about Trump. That means anything he does that might gain attention, will gain attention. And that especially includes his choices for a running mate and key cabinet positions. Clinton's impending running mate choice is grabbing good attention too, but mostly because it's something that will take further focus away from her. Clinton just doesn't generate buzz, Trump does. It's as simple as that.

Of course, the new Trump team still has to execute on these opportunities. For one thing, it needs to register and mobilize the new and disaffected voters who naturally flocked to Trump's side during the primaries. In the general election, they may need more prodding. But until we see Clinton regularly polling at 50 percent and higher, this is still a winnable election for Trump despite all the conventional wisdom that says he has no chance.


Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Power Lunch." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

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