Trump, who declined rigorous preparation for the debate, failed to go after Clinton on her emails with any vigor and leaped at Clinton's obvious bait by defending his comments about a former Miss Universe's weight gain. And then Trump inexplicably invoked his attacks on Rosie O'Donnell as a "disgusting pig" as something that the TV host "deserved."
Reputable national polls showed Trump lost the debate by a huge margin while Trump and his surrogates clung to unscientific and thoroughly useless internet insta-polls to promote the idea that he "won" the debate. And just like with the Gold Star Khan family, Trump continued to wallow in the Miss Universe story while suggesting he plans to try make former President Bill Clinton's affairs a centerpiece of his campaign strategy.
If you went into a lab to try to design a strategy to repel undecided women from your candidacy, you could not come up with a more perfect result.
Once again on the defensive, Trump launched into an unhinged Twitter rant on Thursday night and Friday morning, completely dispensing with the modicum of restraint exhibited during his rise in the polls over the late summer.
Trump tweeted that Clinton was "duped and used" by former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, urging followers to "check out sex tape and past." He went on to refer to Machado as "disgusting" and suggested — without any evidence — that the Clinton campaign may have helped Machado become a U.S. citizen in order to "use her in the debate."
Trump kept up the Twitter assault into Friday morning with posts assailing the media. At 3:20 a.m. he tweeted: "Anytime you see a story about me or my campaign saying 'sources said,' DO NOT believe it. There are no sources, they are just made up lies!"
And at 8:50 a.m.: "Remember, don't believe 'sources said' by the VERY dishonest media. If they don't name the sources, the sources don't exist."
The damage from Trump's disastrous debate and subsequent meltdowns is already starting to pile up. Clinton has moved back to a 3-point advantage in the national polling average. And that figure includes the Los Angeles Times/USC poll that consistently shows a large advantage for Trump that is out of step with all other national polls. The L.A. Times poll relies on a static survey of the same respondents and has other methodological issues that could make it an outlier.
Trump's improvement in state polling is also eroding. The first poll in Florida taken after the debate found Clinton leading Trump by 4 points. Clinton can win the White House without Florida. Trump cannot. If the GOP nominee loses either Florida or Ohio (where he maintains a solid lead), he has no chance of getting to 270 electoral votes.
All of this brings up the question of why Trump is so bent on self-destruction every time he appears poised to possibly win. In the "South Park" view of the election, Trump is actively trying to lose when his Democratic opponent won't allow him to do it. It's possible this is actually what's going on, though if it is, it's probably happening at a subconscious level.
The GOP nominee's behavior at least suggests that deep in his psyche he does not believe that he is prepared for the presidency. And there is probably some truth in the idea that Trump really doesn't want the job as it would so drastically alter his gilded lifestyle.