This should be a 10-point race, minimum. If this were an election governed by any of the rules of politics that all of us have been practicing and teaching and writing books about, this should be the biggest snoozer since 1984, when Germond and Witcover penned their aptly named "Wake Us When It's Over."
He picked a fight with the family of a dead Muslim soldier. He didn't just start a fight; he kept the thing going.
I'm not going through the list. Everyone has their own favorites, and that one is mine. His own advisers spent the summer tanking him to the press, painting him as undisciplined, in the hopes that he would get the message. With the sort of widespread leaking and on-the-record criticism Trump has had, we are looking at a candidate who should be on the verge of collapse, a party that should be worried about House and Senate seats and disaster in November.
But here's the great irony. Yes, the Republican Party is definitely concerned about the campaign's being guided by a popular right-wing website like Breitbart News. (I'm not saying inspired; I mean guided — but there I go again.) You can find plenty of worried Republicans.
Not everybody, though. Trump should be toast, 10 points down, minimum. He isn't.
What else can you say? The conventional rules produce the wrong answer. They are only right most of the time. This time, they are not.
Donald Trump is in a winnable race.
Hillary Clinton is in a losable race.
I supported Al Gore over George W. Bush. But I wasn't afraid of Bush. Certainly no one ever stopped me in the supermarket parking lot to ask me whether the Constitution expressly provided for civilian control of the military (not a nut, a smart shopper).
I wasn't afraid of Mitt Romney or John McCain or the first George Bush or Ronald Reagan. I didn't try to reassure myself by thinking things like, "So long as the Senate stays Democrat, he'll get nothing done." Fabulous.
With all the problems we are facing, the monumental list of dangers we are leaving our children to deal with, why not spend the next four years accomplishing nothing but opening new golf courses and having the ultimate reality show to pick, say, a new VP? You know what I mean. It's a bit scary.
I understand why people don't trust Clinton. When facing a crisis, she embodies the worst qualities of my profession. You can call it paranoia. We call it being careful: not giving up anything until you know the full picture; not giving up materials that might be twisted against you unless there is a fight to limit the range and the scope of the request; and being extremely careful about when and how you allow your client to be questioned. To a lawyer like Clinton, that is a prudent response. Ask anyone else, and they'll tell you it's a sure sign they're guilty. Political suicide.
Clinton needed to run the most transparent campaign ever, and instead she ran one that sets the standard for fine law firms.
Clinton, sitting alone at a table with millions of pages of documents, will win (politically speaking) any press conference. She won every time she went to the Hill. She wins every time she opens up. So why does she do it so rarely?
According to what I read, the campaign was on the verge of a new, open Clinton when she collapsed after not telling the press she was walking around with pneumonia, which had been diagnosed two days earlier. Because they had told the press nothing, Clinton's "dramatic" exit from the 9/11 commemoration activities became the screaming headline of the day. Only later did things tone down when it was explained that she had a routine, treatable case of the illness, but that she had insisted on attending that event instead of resting.
In politics, there are many advantages to being open and transparent, or at least looking like you are. Or as we used to say, you need to seem authentic. Trump excels at that, and why wouldn't he? He's made billions doing nothing.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)