Thought Experiment: Imagine Donald Trump is a Smart Person.
Here's a thought experiment for you: Try to imagine that Donald Trump isn't the crazed, bigoted blowhard you see on TV but is instead a smart and savvy businessman who has, all his life, calculatingly managed his image and exposure for personal gain. All other facts of the 2016 Republican primary being the same, reinterpret the rise of Trump assuming he's a smart person.
It has to be granted that Trump is an impulsive egomaniac. He runs for president mostly because, financially, it's a drop in the bucket and it feeds his need to be seen and heard, which, historically has always lead Trump to more success and notoriety. Pulling the same trick in 2012 certainly panned out well for him. Being a presidential candidate forever secures your credentials as a media personality that can always be monetized ala Pat Buchanan. (Certainly that is a prime motivator for most lesser presidential candidates with no chance of winning.) There was no reason to expect that this year would be any different. Trump spends almost no money on traditional campaign advertising because his status as a celebrity means that he can call into any news show on any channel and will be put on the air immediately; He has spent exactly $0 in TV advertising.
One or both of two things has recently occurred to him because if you are a smart person, even your maniacal impulses get reconsidered from time to time: 1) This strategy of leveraging everyone else's media won't work in the general campaign and since the Republican establishment is really unhappy with Trump for stealing Jeb's thunder, he'll have to do tons work building a ground game and spend serious money to run in the general election, a price tag that might near a billion dollars of his capital (and 1b- he probably won't win, especially if it's against Bernie) and 2) If he did manage to win, running the country in any serious way (I mean like way more serious than GWB) is gonna require lots and lots of time and as an educated person, he 100% knows that the shit that comes out of his mouth has absolutely has no way of being enacted in the real world. He's knows the energy to be a president requires real work and he only wanted to run for president; he is, quite frankly, as surprised as anyone to be taken seriously for this long.
Actually being the actual President of the actual United States and actually getting up every morning to run the actual country is gonna be a real bummer. I imagine most mornings, Trump humps whatever blonde model he's currently sponsoring into the country, who surley looks uncomfortably similar to Ivonka, and then goes about his day berating subordinates and getting his ass kissed. That's a spectacular life. Waking up every morning for three hours of security briefings and before using 20 pens to sign his fucking name on an omnibus spending bill is seriously gonna cut into Trump's "me" time.
I think the recent amping up of his rhetoric may be an intentional, perhaps unconscious, attempt to disqualify himself in the polls so he can legitimately say he is suspending his campaign because the polls show he cannot win. In October 2015, during an interview with Jack Heath on WGIR AM610 radio in New Hampshire, Trump alluded to bowing out of his campaign if the poll numbers didn't support a win. He admits candidates "have to see the writing on the wall at some point." This is in October 2015, before the Paris attacks spurred his recent foray into anti-Muslim Fascism. This is before he mocked a disabled reporter, before he encouraged his supporters to rough up Black Lives Matter activists, before he made a joke about a fat protester asking about food stamps, before a dozen other base and unconscionable things that have come out his mouth in the last two months that most people chalk up to Trump going off the deep end. Ask yourself, on a media tour to drum up momentum from his supporters and get his message out to the people, during the absolute zenith of his popularity, right when the ascendant Ben Carson started shoving his full foot into his mouth, what serious presidential candidate would dare casually discusses pulling out of the race on, of all places, AM radio, the stronghold of his fervent support? I'll tell you who: someone who doesn't really want to win.
Trump is desperately looking for an exit and yet his incensed supporters won't be dissuaded by his obvious gaffes, crackpot politics, and despicable utterances. He has been tacking more and more into the absurd to find the point at which his support dissolves. Perhaps what Trump didn't calculate was the unimaginable appetite a certain segment of the disaffected American population has for xenophobic, hard right politics and plain-spoken bigotry. From the moderate political Right, Center, and Left, we have all been mortified watching this unfold at a distance, but for Trump, he's wandered too far to the Right and was surprised to stumble upon a smartly-wrapped package labeled, "Support for Trump's Candidacy," and has been shaking it vigorously for months, but it's Christmas morning now and he's peered inside to discover it's just hornets and dogshit.
Of course, I may be wrong.