Donald Trump and his aides used to say that voters didn’t care about the nitty-gritty of policy details. But now those details are tripping up his campaign.
For more than a week now, as he’s tried to shine the spotlight on his rival, Trump has appeared to wrestle with one of his signature proposals: A pledge to expel everyone living in the U.S. illegally with the help of a “deportation force.”
At a Fox News town hall taping last week, in the face of pressing questions, the GOP nominee proceeded to poll the audience at length on the fate of an estimated 11 million people. It was a stunning display of indecision from a candidate who has asked voters to put enormous faith in his gut instincts.
Trump is now planning a major speech Wednesday, during which he’s expected to finally clarify his stance. Supporters are hoping for a strong, decisive showing. But the episode underscores how little time his campaign has invested in outlining how he would accomplish his goals as president, especially when compared with the detailed plans of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. And for critics, many already disposed to vote against him, his wavering on what has been his signature issue seems like a warning that he’s unable to handle a central element of any president’s job — making decisions.
“It’s just puzzling,” said Lanhee Chen, who has served as a policy adviser to several Republican presidential candidates. “This is the issue on which he rose to prominence in the primary and the issue on which he continues to stake much of his campaign.”
From the start, Trump has never been the kind of candidate to pore over thick policy books.