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opinion

If Donald Trump were a stock, my advice would be to sell it now. He's had a great run. But if he wins the U.S. presidential election, then I'll show you how to fly to the moon on gossamer wings.

Huge swaths of American voters would rather swallow arsenic than vote for Mr. Trump. These people are not only blacks, Hispanics and Bernie Sanders fans (although, strange as it may seem, a few Sanders fans are also Trump fans). They also include people whose votes he desperately needs. Women, for example. Seventy-five per cent of women view him unfavourably, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll. Among white women, 54 per cent don't like him, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. And that was before he shot his mouth off on abortion.

A few days ago, Mr. Trump said that women who have abortions should be punished. Then he took it back, and said that only their doctors should be punished. He obviously hadn't thought about it before the moment he opened his mouth. But most Americans have thought about it. And even his fans would admit he sounded unwise. That was right after he took to Twitter to trash Heidi Cruz, wife of rival Ted Cruz. Not smart. Even people who enjoy Mr. Trump's trash talk agree that other people's wives are out of bounds.

Mr. Trump needs to make inroads with swing voters as well as women. But only 19 per cent of swing voters like him. In fact, polls show he loses out among every single category of voters – even among less-educated white males, his base. In head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton, he trails in all the key states. His net favourability rating is lower than that of any presidential nominee in recent history.

"There is no precedent for this," Republican pollster Neil Newhouse told The New York Times. "In the modern polling era, since around World War II, there hasn't been a more unpopular potential presidential nominee than Donald Trump."

Okay, but so what? The man has defied all the experts. Opinion polls mean nothing at this point. Anything can happen.

But the one thing that has to happen is that Mr. Trump will have to change. And he can't. His most deadly foe is himself.

Mr. Trump has no situational awareness. He has no ability to take advice, or build bridges, or learn from others, or direct a team. He has no one on staff who grasps the mechanics of wooing delegates at the Republican convention, or the nominating rules at the July gathering. Winning in politics is at least partly about strategy and process. But all he understands is action. Last week, when a Washington Post reporter suggested that he seems comfortable as the Lone Ranger, he instantly agreed. "I am," he said. "Because I understand life. And I understand how life works. I'm the Lone Ranger."

Lately he has taken to sitting down with major mainstream media (the people he most despises) for long interviews on the record. Perhaps his aim is to sound presidential. Instead, he sounds delusional. He says Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia should have nuclear weapons if they want – then, in the next breath, explains that nuclear proliferation is a serious problem. He says we're in for a "very massive" recession, then explains that he'll get rid of the national debt ($19-trillion) in eight years. You can practically see his interrogators struggling to keep their jaws from dropping on the floor.

Diehard Trump fans don't care about the nuances of policy. But even they are not entirely detached from reality. Even they know that Mr. Trump can't just ride into the White House, tear up all the trade deals, shake up NATO, deport 11 million illegals, and give China a good spanking – all in the first hundred days. Even they must have an inkling that he's just shooting his mouth off. And maybe that's okay for now. But sooner or later, you have a country to run, and then what?

The Donald Trump reality show won't run forever. Eventually, we'll all get sick of it. He's not about to win new fans – most people's opinions of him are by now fixed in concrete. And some of the old fans are starting to have serious doubts. Even Newt Gingrich is dismayed by Mr. Trump's recent bad behaviour. "I don't understand it," he told The New York Times, forlornly.

But really, what's to understand? The Lone Ranger never got to be president. He was just an action figure pitched to adolescent boys. And so is Donald Trump.