Just as the stock market’s record gains this year have been driven by anticipation of interest rate cuts, Donald Trump’s prospects have been propelled by an irrational exuberance in the political markets.

This week demonstrated how the conventional wisdom around Trump’s inevitability has solidified — and why those assumptions, much like the ones around rate cuts, are due for a correction.

It has been close to an open secret in the diplomatic corps that America’s allies and adversaries are anticipating a Trump restoration. Discussing who will fill his second-term Cabinet and White House isn’t just the stuff of parlor games in embassies and overseas capitals — it has taken on a what-will-we-do urgency since Trump sealed the GOP nomination last month.

It is one thing for Hungarian President Viktor Orban, the contrarian and would-be authoritarian troll of the continent, to descend on Mar-a-Lago for an ersatz state visit. But the degree to which other countries are preparing for a Trump victory was illustrated by a far more unlikely visitor this week to the former president’s exile in Xanadu: British Foreign Minister David Cameron.

The British government hastened to say how common it was for top officials to meet with American opposition figures. But when he was prime minister in 2012, Cameron didn’t dispatch his foreign minister to Boston, let alone Lake Winnipesaukee, to visit Mitt Romney. The British received Romney at 10 Downing Street, their turf, when he happened to be in town for the beginning of the Summer Olympics.

In fact, as I was reminded this week, it was about this time in 2012 that Cameron came to the White House for a pomp-filled visit and state dinner. The then-prime minister compared the then-incumbent up for reelection, Barack Obama, to Theodore Roosevelt and all but endorsed his reelection, praising Obama for having “pressed the reset button on the moral authority of the entire free world.” (Yes, students of diplomatic sport history, that was the same trip where Obama brought Cameron to the NCAA basketball tournament play-in game in Dayton, which was surely difficult to translate into the Queen’s English.)

In fairness to Cameron, who may be gone with the rest of the Tories by the time Trump would be sworn in again, he did have a more urgent task in Palm Beach: softening the former president’s Ukraine opposition ahead of a House vote on aid to Kyiv this month.

Yet Cameron, more than any country’s foreign minister, knows the message he sent by showing up at Trump’s gilded door.

And, of course, Trump knows the message being sent. An official from another Western country, not Britain, told me Trump’s circle is advising a number of embassies to dispatch ambassadors and ministers to Mar-a-Lago to, well, rekindle relationships.

A high-ranking Biden official said it was not surprising but rather “unsettling” that Cameron would go to Mar-a-Lago. “They’re scared of how destructive he is and they’re seeing if he can temper him,” this official told me, with a measure of sympathy, because the British know Trump is bent on vengeance.

Yet right as major countries have embarked on mollifying Trump over six months before the election, there were reminders that his polling advantage in key states may not last. The fashionable assumption among Trump’s elite critics — perhaps the way of demonstrating this time one is not out of touch — that he’s a lock looks increasingly misguided or at least premature.

His most glaring challenge at the end of the week is what it was at the start of the week, when he all but read the stage directions to say he was trying to put abortion behind him.

Biden’s campaign couldn’t have scripted it better: Trump said on Monday his answer, and he surely hoped his last one, on abortion access was that it was for the states to decide. Then Tuesday, Arizona’s Supreme Court indeed decided — to uphold a 19th-century law banning virtually all abortions.

Trump still thinks he can sit on a states’ rights answer and deny Biden his best opening.

“The only issue they think they have is on abortion,” Trump said, speaking of reading the stage directions. “And now all I say is that states are handling it. And it’s totally killed that issue.”

The problem for Trump is he will be asked to comment, as he was this week with Arizona, on the abortion policies of every state in which he campaigns. And he will be pressed on the six-week ban in his own adopted state, Florida, as well as how he’ll vote on a ballot measure there in November protecting abortion rights until viability.

Republicans have been on the defensive over abortion since the 2022 decision overturning Roe, lacking any effective or unifying strategy. This week illustrated how that’s not changed a bit. And the more he’s pressed on an issue he plainly wants to dismiss, the more likely it is Trump will exacerbate the political difficulties inherent to someone who doesn’t want to talk about his most consequential accomplishment: appointing the three justices who ended legal abortion in America.

What Trump does talk about is also why his election is hardly a sure thing. Of course, there’s the constant praise of Jan. 6 rioters as “hostages” and vows to pardon them, which his core voters thrill to but which alienates independents and Republicans otherwise unenthused about Biden.

Just as embarrassing for those same voters was what The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported Trump told wealthy donors at a Florida fundraiser last weekend.

“Why can’t we allow people to come in from nice countries?” Trump said about migration to America, citing Denmark, Switzerland and Norway. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the common thread of those countries Trump found appealing was not their single-payer health care.

Immigration clearly still offers an advantage to Republicans. Yet when Trump ventures from talking tough on the border to Great Replacement adjacent rhetoric more at home in the 1920s than the 2020s, well, millions of voters are reminded that a vote for him is a vote for a race-baiting demagogue.

And speaking of Trump being Trump, he has still yet to do anything to win over the crucial voters who supported Nikki Haley in the GOP primary. They were scarcely enough to make the nominating contest competitive. But it’s about a third of the party and any defections would be devastating for Trump, who can’t count on a plethora of new voters on his third consecutive campaign.

Yet he can’t bring himself to reach out to Haley’s voters let alone Haley herself. It has been well over a month since she dropped out of the race and, I’m told, Trump has still yet to call her.

It’s not just symbolism. While much of the Republican money crowd has come back to Trump, there are still holdouts who are more inclined to Haley’s Wall Street Journal-aligned conservatism. And as Biden places over $100 million of ad reservations this fall thanks to his financial advantage, Trump’s financial deficit grows more apparent.

Biden still faces enormous difficulties. After all, he’s an unpopular, 81-year-old incumbent seeking reelection in a moment when a post-pandemic sourness endures and, well, those high interest rates may endure, too.

Many Democrats are all but begging for him to stop trumpeting his accomplishments and start talking about what Trump did — and will do if elected again.

While recognizing it’s only one spill or slip away from roaring back, Biden allies can’t help but revel in how the chatter about Biden’s purported infirmities has quieted since his well-caffeinated State of the Union speech. The change in coverage and his more frequent travels since the address have brightened his mood, I’m told.

And that’s before this next phase of the campaign, the one that begins Monday in New York. When candidate Donald Trump becomes defendant Donald Trump.



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