Everyone knows, in political terms, Donald Trump is a flamethrower. He unleashes attacks without hesitation. He leaps into brawls he should avoid. And even when he is definitively wrong, he fights relentlessly to prove he is right. Now that I think of it, he is a lot like my college girlfriend.
Nonetheless, all of that is part of how he won the Republican nomination. Here is another: He answered concerns about the long range viability of his campaign by insisting he would become more measured, more scripted and more presidential.
But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. His campaign shakeup this week make it stunningly clear, what we have seen so far has been the nice part of the race. Trump has now stacked the top of his team with street fighters; people who will throw so many blistering accusations at Hillary Clinton she may long for the good old days when the candidate merely called her a liar.
Why did Trump go in this direction? Because as much as he may want to reach moderates and minorities with a kinder, gentler message, his success has always stemmed from attacking. His real estate deals have been marked by hardball negotiations. His famous catch phrase was “You’re fired” not “I’m afraid we’ll have to let you go.” And his political rise flowed from incinerating his foes, not carefully sautéing their positions.
And now Trump is betting his presidential dream that even more numerous, vicious and relentless attacks are his best course. He is likely dousing his last hopes for strong support from the Republican establishment; wagering instead that there are enough angry white voters to rise up and burn Camp Clinton to the ground. History and the polls say he is probably wrong, but they said he’d never make it this far.
So grab your extinguishers. I believe in the coming weeks we’ll see a firebombing unmatched in modern, presidential politics, with Trump betting somehow he’ll be the last one standing amid the ashes.
(CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of “My Year of Running Dangerously”)