“Republicans want this election to be about the economy and judges. If it’s about Trump’s tweets and temperament, it’s likely that Democrats will have an enthusiasm advantage,” said Alex Conant, a GOP operative who has advised presidential candidates.

Multiple Republicans interviewed for this story declined to speak on the record for fear of angering Trump or causing a problem for their clients.

Granted the protection of anonymity, however, some said the president had committed an egregious, self-inflicted error that could haunt him all the way into next year. A veteran Republican consultant said this latest episode was a bigger political problem for Trump than his controversial response to a violent gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, two summers ago.

“It’s the worst thing he has done,” this GOP insider said. “It’s a blunder and the telling fact that not a single person in the White House has the ability to course correct … and keep it from being a week-long story sets up a terrible narrative.”