- - Thursday, October 27, 2016

Donald Trump was promoting business this week, his own, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for his newest luxury hotel, a few blocks from the White House.

While the presidential election raced on without him, he was boasting that he finished the project under budget and ahead of schedule, and was now open for business.

However, while Mr. Trump’s money-making advertisement was drawing nationwide promotion on the nightly network news, the U.S. economy’s decline was getting much less attention.

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The perpetually sluggish Obama economy was barely growing at a little more than 1 percent annual rate in the past six months, as the government announced Thursday that factory orders fell last month, along with business investment.

“U.S. factory sector is still on shaky ground,” The Wall Street Journal said in another dismal report on the anemic economy that never ever draws any serious criticism from Hillary Clinton.

“Orders for big-ticket manufactured goods dipped in September as a key category that tracks business investment fell by the largest amount in seven months,” The Associated Press reported this week.

“Orders in the category that serves as a proxy for business investment plunged 1.2 percent in September, the biggest setback since a 2.1 percent drop in February,” the news service reported.

Mr. Trump was ignoring the stagnant economy, or at best giving it lip service, focusing instead on his economic future and lining his own pockets.

His chief defenders, like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, were ignoring the economy, too, and going after Mr. Trump’s critics in the news media about the rash of sex scandals that have all but ended his political hopes of becoming president.

In an interview Tuesday with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, Mr. Gingrich was angrily shaking his finger at her, accusing her of being “fascinated with sex” when she dared to raise the sexual assault allegations that at least 11 women have made against Mr. Trump.

The real estate mogul promoted the scolding story at his ribbon-cutting affair Wednesday, saying “Congratulations, Newt, on last night. That was an amazing interview. We don’t play games, Newt, right?”

This has been the story of a campaign that has stooped to a new low in presidential politics when his utterly vulgar language about his sexual exploits had to be bleeped out in TV news broadcasts or abbreviated in the newspapers.

I mean, what kind of presidential candidate accuses his opponent of being a “crook,” and a “nasty woman,” in a debate on nationwide television?

It kind of makes one long for the good old days when Ronald Reagan made headlines with his “there you go again” remark in his debate with President Jimmy Carter.

As Mr. Trump’s embarrassing campaign raced toward its final days this week, Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, appeared to be struggling when she was asked if she believed the women who have accused her boss of sexually assaulting them.

“I believe Donald Trump has told me and his family, and the rest of America now, that none of this is true,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash. “These are lies and fabrications. They’re all made up. And I think it’s not for me to judge what those women believe. I’ve not talked to them, I’ve talked to him.”

It’s certainly no exaggeration to conclude that from the very beginning, Donald Trump’s campaign has veered wildly off course.

It began with his sweeping condemnation of just about all Hispanic migrants as serial rapists, drug dealers, and murderers and his pledge to round them all up and deport every one of them — then build a 2,000 mile wall along our border and make Mexico pay for it.

While illegal Hispanic immigrants are the top issue for a smaller percentage of Americans, it isn’t a major concern among most Americans — not even close.

Year after year, according to all the polls, one issue has been the No. 1 concern of most Americans: the economy.

“Americans continue to cite the economy as the top problem,” the Gallup Poll reports this week.

It’s latest poll, conducted between Oct. 5 - 9, found that 17 percent of us point to the weak Obama economy as the most troubling problem facing our country, while “Overall, 31 percent name at least one economic issue as their top concern.”

“Dissatisfaction with government” comes in second on the poll’s list at 12 percent, and “race relations/racism” is third at 10 percent.

Immigration and illegal aliens are in fourth place at a mere 7 percent.

Surprisingly, though, Gallup discovered a new concern among Americans that hasn’t appeared before in recent elections.

“In the midst of the ongoing presidential campaign, 7 percent of Americans cite the election as the top U.S. problem in October — higher than Gallup has found at this stage in recent presidential election years,” the pollsters said.

“In October of each presidential election year from 2000 to 2012, no more than 1 percent of Americans mentioned the election as one of the country’s top concerns,” they said.

We have become accustomed to elections that are first and foremost about policies or the direction of the country, but this week the campaign has “instead focused on the candidates’ personal scandals,” the polling report said.

To date, there are the troublesome “pay to play” email details about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s foundation, involving huge sums of money, and now, of course, Mr. Trump’s tawdry sexual scandal.

We are confronted with two very distasteful choices for president who are not seriously focused on the voters’ chief concerns about a weak, underperforming economy.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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