Michael Graham: If Donald Trump can’t win the terrorism war, he can’t win the White House

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, Donald Trump's numbers have not seen the bump his campaign would have expected

Donald Trump, election,

Image: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

As the fallout continues from the events in Orlando, the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States, Donald Trump is struggling to show he can win the 'war on terrorism'.

Not the actual “stop Islamist terrorism” fight, but the battle for the trust and support of American voters. Security—protecting America from Islamists and illegal immigrants—is Trump’s entire wheelhouse, which is why many observers believed one consequence of the terrorist attack in Orlando would be a likely boost in Trump’s poll numbers, if only temporarily.

Instead, here are the headlines four days after the attack:

New ABC poll finds Trump's unfavorable rating at 70%.

Latest Bloomberg national poll shows Clinton leading Trump 49% to 37% among likely voters, 55% say they’ll never vote Trump.

CBS: 51% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to Orlando attack.

While it's worth keeping in mind that some of this polling was done before the terror attack in Florida, it’s also true that the polling done since then isn’t any better. A majority of Americans rejecting Trump’s take on Orlando is very bad news for the GOP’s presumptive nominee.

That's not to say that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has the race locked up. In addition to having a 55% disapproval rating (a record for any major party nominee NOT named “Trump”), the Bloomberg poll which gives her a double-digit lead also shows that voters still trust Trump more on terrorism issues than the architect of American policy in Libya and Ukraine.

Trump’s campaign is built on a simple premise: our politicians are incompetent and weak, and America needs a non-p.c., non-politician to make us strong again. The weakness of the American Left on security issues is such that even the phrase “Orlando terror attack” is problematic for President Obama and his would-be successor Hillary Clinton. They and their political allies rarely use the phrase, preferring instead to talk about a “mass shooting” or a “hate crime” against the patrons of a gay nightclub.

This avoid-the-issue approach proves Trump’s fundamental point; that American politicians are more worried about political correctness than protecting people from terror. Trump’s biggest political gift thus far was President Obama’s address to the nation hours after the attack. Despite the fact that the terrorist literally called the police to identify himself as an ally of ISIS, our president gave a speech that failed to use the word “Islam” or “Muslim” a single time. It’s of a piece with Obama’s repeated references to The Crusades (circa 900AD) in the wake of 21st Century Islamist violence.

Hillary’s in the same spot, having stated publicly that “Muslims have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” She also told gay and lesbian Americans after the Orlando attack that “we will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has absolutely no place in America.”

The response from many Americans was…well, actually I can’t print the response on a family-friendly website.  We are, after all, the Americans who live in a country where gay marriage is legal as opposed to, say, one of the many Muslim countries where homosexuality carries the death penalty. Millions of gay Americans live freely and happily and hundreds of millions of Americans respect their right to do so.

But still President Obama lectures us, as opposed to calling out the current state of Islam, or even mentioning the theological motive of the killer?

This plays right into Donald Trump’s hands. He speaks for Americans who are tired of being made to feel badly about being American. Trump predicted that President Obama would respond to Islamist violence with politically-correct wimpery, and Obama proved him right.

The conventional wisdom is that Trump’s appeal to strength will help him with voters who think he’s nuts, but also think (to quote the great political philosopher Billy Joel) “it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.”

If, however, voters continue to reject Trump’s handling of the Orlando attack and fail to rally around him in its wake, it’s becoming harder to imagine a moment when they would move to support him at all.