by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's claims that President Barack Obama is the "founder" of terror group Islamic State (IS) threaten to hurt himself with the voters who he needs to win over, experts said.
Trump raised hackles among opponents this week with the statements that Obama "founded" IS while Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is the co-founder.
Trump was in fact referring to the Obama administration's missteps in handling the Middle East that led to the formation of the radical Islamist group.
IS sprang up while Clinton was Secretary of State, and Trump and his supporters have blasted Clinton for what they said was putting Iraq on the backburner after U.S. forces left the country, leaving IS to fill a power vacuum there and in neighboring Syria.
While Trump's IS statements were meant to be sarcastic, many Americans have not taken it lightly. And with Trump trailing Clinton in the polls, the bombastic real estate tycoon risks losing the White House if he continues with such incendiary remarks.
"Trump's comments reflect a candidate that seems more interested in the reaction of a crowd at a political rally than the esteem of the voting public," Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua.
"While a thoughtful policy approach would build a case about the shortcomings-real or perceived-of the Democrats' foreign policy, Trump's comments reflect a desire to use barbed one liners that fire up the people at his rally," he said.
Indeed, Trump's verbal bombs were what won him the primaries, at a time when the Republican rank and file is fed up with Washington politicians who talk a lot but take little or no action to fix major problems.
But analysts believe that, after clinching the nomination, now it is the time for Trump to remake his image and behave in a more statesman-like manner that appeals to voters outside his base.
While Trump has galvanized white, blue-collar men in a way not seen in decades, this demographic is narrow, and analysts said now Trump needs to appeal to a broader audience.
While Trump's bombastic rhetoric and actions worked well to fire up a populist segment of the Republican primary electorate, they are increasingly alienating a wide range of moderate, educated general election voters, Mahaffee noted.
Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said that claiming Obama as the founder of IS is "an incendiary comment connecting the president and Democratic candidate to a deadly terrorist organization."
"Using this kind of rhetoric and insinuation is not working. He needs to remake his candidacy, though it' s unclear if he wants to focus on serious policy debates," Zelizer told Xinhua.
Analysts said Trump needs to stop with the name calling and poke serious holes in the policies and arguments of the Clinton team.
"Trump could hurt Clinton by pointing out that the world is chaotic right now and Clinton and Obama have done little to restore order," Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.
Trump can point to examples in many places where Americans have been killed and blame the foreign policy of the Obama administration, West said.
"However, Trump constantly steps on his own message by misstating facts, so it is hard for him to convince voters he is up to the job," West said.
Many people outside Trump's base see him as a bully who exaggerates and does not seem very stable. Those perceptions make it difficult for him to win over independent voters who remain undecided, West added.
The question remains whether Trump can reverse this image as the clock ticks toward the November elections, when Americans will cast their ballots for the next U.S. president.
Time is running out for Trump to do this, and the time for him to act is now, analysts said.
"First impressions matter a lot so the more Trump makes outrageous claims, the harder it becomes to alter basic views about himself. Time is running short for him to shift the campaign narrative," West said.