With the Betfair markets fast losing confidence in Donald Trump's bid for the Presidency, Paul Krishnamurty wonders whether his campaign has peaked and could be about to implode...
"Normally at such a moment, candidates tend to duck out of the frontline until the media firestorm fades, but instead Trump stormed head first into two confrontations with powerful groups."
From the outset of his bid for the Republican Nomination, Donald Trump has monopolised media attention, driving record TV ratings for both debates. The Betfair markets, however, have never truly bought it and after a difficult week for the front-runner, confidence is waning fast.
In the run-up to last Wednesday's CNN debate, Trump reached his highest Betfair rating yet at 17% for the nomination, as his odds shortened to [5.8]. Nowhere near the favourite Jeb Bush, but clear second best. One difficult week later, he's down to just 12% at [8.2].
The troubles began with the debate, in which he was embarrassed and eclipsed by Carly Fiorina, the sole female candidate whose face had been mocked by Trump in an interview. Their exchange was without doubt the most memorable moment of the night, and Fiorina was unanimously judged to have won the 11-strong debate.
Carly Fiorina takes Trump down in the CNN debate
The negative news cycle worsened at the weekend, when Trump failed to correct a questioner who claimed Obama was a Muslim and not even American, referring to Trump's old 'birther' theory. The White House, along with both Democrat and Republican rivals immediately condemned him. Watch here and judge for yourself.
Watch Donald Trump fail to correct claim that Obama is a Muslim
Normally at such a moment, candidates tend to duck out of the frontline until the media firestorm fades, but instead Trump stormed head first into two confrontations with powerful groups that he might once have hoped would be supportive.
On Monday, his lawyers issued a 'cease and desist' order against pro-Republican organisation the Club For Growth, in response to negative ads. Trump labelled them 'dishonest, irrelevant, pathetic and totally failing'.
Next in line for a fight appears to be that bastion of Republican America, Fox News. After complaining about their bias for weeks, this afternoon Trump declared that he won't be appearing on the channel anymore.
.@FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won't be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2015
Whatever the rights and wrongs, all conventional wisdom suggests this is a catastrophic campaign strategy. Is he really going to spend the next 14 months fighting lawsuits against opponents and boycotting the TV channel most watched by his supporters?
Is the beginning of the end? Not while he remains top of the polls, although the recent evidence is not so encouraging. The latest CNN poll, taken after the debate but before the latest controversies, had Trump ahead, but on just 24%. Another yesterday recorded 23%.
Given his overwhelming advantage in terms of name recognition and media attention, this is nowhere near enough at this early stage of a 14-runner race, for which 12 are relatively unknown and still in the process of building a profile.
With rivals gaining in name recognition whilst receding in numbers - Scott Walker is the latest to drop out - that poll lead could disappear in a flash. Presidential campaigns can implode in very quick time, as Walker's example demonstrates.
How this unique and unpredictable candidate responds then is anyone's guess.
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