Donald Trump still has an uphill battle in this election. But when it comes to controlling the news cycle in this election, he's running unopposed.
Consider the recent pivot in the Trump campaign. It began with a speech expressing his regrets for his past hurtful comments, followed by a visit to flood ravaged Louisiana. And it continued this weekend with a meeting with Latino supporters where he signaled a desire to temper his immigration policies and shift away from his previous support for mass deportations.
If this were any other candidate in any other election year, it would hardly be newsworthy and certainly not electorally beneficial for a candidate to move to be less offensive in his comments and join the mainstream position of his own party on immigration. But this is the year of Trump and Trump has spent most of this year setting the bar so low for his own candidacy that these kinds of shifts are both newsworthy and politically beneficial. Some polls have already shown a favorable Trump trend, and you can expect that to continue in the coming days.
And all of this is the result of a dangerous mistake by the Clinton campaign. It's fallen into a trap that's allowed Trump and his behavior to dominate the news coverage and the direction of the polls. Long ago, the Clinton campaign clearly decided to put all its work into attacking Trump and thus abdicating any serious efforts to promote their candidate and her policies. It's almost like the Clinton campaign would like us to forget about them entirely, as evidence by the forgettable choice of Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton's running mate and her decision to basically take a few weekends off over the summer.
And Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook doubled down on that strategy over the weekend during an interview on CNN by spending far more time talking about Trump than his own boss. Even the mostly Clinton-supportive news media has long abandoned any effort to trumpet her candidacy in favor of an almost religiously fervent barrage of anti-Trump material day after day. And Clinton herself has seemed so relatively absent and quiet that perhaps the real question her campaign should be focusing on is not who they'll find to play Trump in the debate preparations but who they're going to find to play Hillary Clinton.
Trump's recent pivots won't convince any of his most ardent detractors and Clinton's biggest fans to change their minds, but there are still a good number of undecided voters out there who might. And then there's the traditional Republican voters who have been a little embarrassed by Trump, who will now be able to point to the plausible excuse of Trump's "maturing process" to vote for and more publicly support him.