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Barring something crazy happening, Donald Trump is going to lose in November — probably quite badly — and it appears Trump may be starting to realize this.
He still offers up the usual argument that all polls showing him getting crushed nationally and in swing states are bogus and don't count the secret people who will emerge from the shadows and vote for him over Hillary Clinton. But a bit of fatalism has also crept into his usual bluster.
On CNBC on Thursday, Trump twice mused on what his future might hold. Both times he seemed totally fine with the idea of losing.
"If at the end of 90 days I fall in short," Trump said, "it's OK. I go back to a very good way of life. It's not what I'm looking to do. I think we're going to have a victory, but we'll see."
Later, asked what he might do to turn around his crashing poll numbers, Trump basically said he wouldn't change a thing. "Just keep doing the same thing I'm doing right now. At the end it's either going to, you know, work or I'm going to have a very, very nice long vacation."
Elsewhere on Thursday, Trump sounded like a man with absolutely no interest in stopping his freefall. Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who so badly wants to convince himself that Trump is acceptable, offered the GOP nominee an easy way to fix up his ridiculous claim that President Barack Obama "founded" ISIS.
"You mean that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace," Hewitt kindly offered.
Trump was not interested. "No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS, I do. He was the most valuable player."
Evidence that Trump has no intention of actually running a serious race for president is everywhere and has been for months. Someone whose goal is to actually win does not fight with the family of a fallen U.S. solider for days, or pick endless fights with members of his own party, or ignore terrible economic reports he could use to rip up his opponent, or suggest his opponent be assassinated and then refuse to fix it, or fail to run any serious TV campaign or set up a legitimate ground game in any swing state.
Trump wants to be Trump. And that means saying whatever he wants whenever he wants, not doing any real work, blaming any failures on other people (mainly the evil press) and going back to his nice airplane at the end of the day to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken with a knife and fork and blast angry tweets at people.
And if Trump's goal is to lose — which plenty of people believe it is – he is doing an excellent job of it. He's down by an average of nearly 8 points nationally, according to Real Clear Politics. States that should be absolutely safe for him, including South Carolina, Georgia and even Utah, could well be in play. And he's doing a rally on Saturday in Connecticut, a state he has virtually no chance of winning. Trump's numbers are cratering in Pennsylvania, which now seems like a lock for Clinton. Virginia and Colorado are also moving out of Trump's reach. He trails in both Ohio and Florida.
If the election were held today, Trump could count on only 179 electoral votes to 359 for Clinton. If states like Georgia and South Carolina drop out his column, Trump could go down to the worst GOP defeat since Barry Goldwater won only 52 electoral votes against Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
This was to be the week that Trump focused like a laser on the economy and began a serious buttoned down campaign. It didn't happen. Because it was never going to happen. Because Trump is incapable of making it happen. And it will never happen and Trump seems increasingly fine with that. After all, being president is a really hard job and you have to travel a lot and not sleep in your own bed. And that just isn't Donald Trump's thing.
—Ben White is Politico's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. He also authors the daily tip sheet Politico Morning Money [politico.com/morningmoney]. Follow him on Twitter @morningmoneyben.