It's no secret Donald Trump's supporters wish he would spend more time in his public appearances focused on issues and less on the offhand remarks that have gotten him into trouble recently.
Newt Gingrich, the Trump vice presidential finalist who goes in and out of favor at Trump Tower, has long counseled a tighter, more disciplined focus on issues. In an interview Friday morning, as the Obama-is-the-founder-of-ISIS controversy spilled into another day, Gingrich seemed to reach a new level of frustration, suggesting that Trump and the news media have created a "baloney machine" that distracts the public from important issues.
"Trump should spend more time talking about America and less time talking about Trump," Gingrich told me after an appearance on Fox News.
"It's not helpful, and it's not helpful to have quips that distract from the main issues," Gingrich continued. "If Trump is not talking about the economy, and he's not talking about safety, and he's not talking about reforming Washington, he's losing ground."
Indeed, Trump is losing ground. He is running 6.3 points — a substantial margin — behind Hillary Clinton in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls. Even more concerning are new polls of states Trump must win if he is to become president. Even as Gingrich spoke, NBC and the Wall Street Journal were releasing surveys showing Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by 5 points in Florida, 9 points in North Carolina, 13 points in Virginia and by 14 points in Colorado.
Add those to polls showing Trump in trouble in Ohio and falling behind in Pennsylvania — two absolutely critical states for Trump — and the polls are sending Trump a very loud message that what he is doing now is not working. And yet Trump has said several times that he sees no need to change his style to compete in the general election.
Gingrich sees an increasingly urgent situation. "The fact is, you only have a limited amount of communications time, and you should be focusing that time on the issues that matter to the American people," he said. "If talking about yourself drowns out everything else you're talking about — because you know as a conservative the news media is never going to give you a break — you have to make sure you don't give them a break. And every time he gives them something to talk about that allows them to avoid his issues, they're going to take it."
Gingrich pointed to the House Republican report that the U.S. Central Command altered its intelligence to suggest the American campaign against the Islamic State is making more progress than is actually the case. "That ought to be a major national scandal," Gingrich said.
"But it gets totally submerged in all of this baloney," Gingrich concluded. "And Trump contributes to the baloney. He and the news media have a sort of baloney machine going between them."
Nevertheless, Trump has repeatedly refused to change his approach. On Tuesday, he told Fox Business's Maria Bartiromo that, "I think that you know my temperament has gotten me here … I certainly don't think it's appropriate to start changing all of a sudden when you've been winning." On Thursday, Trump told CNBC, "At the end, it's either going to work, or I'm going to, you know, I'm going to have a very, very nice long vacation."