Am I the only one who thinks Trump’s New York Times interview probably ends his competitiveness in most of the Rust Belt? Just wonderin’.

CLEVELAND — Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, explicitly raised new questions on Wednesday about his commitment to automatically defending NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance.

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” he added, “the answer is yes.”

Mr. Trump’s statement appeared to be the first time that a major candidate for president had suggested conditioning the United States’ defense of its major allies. It was consistent, however, with his previous threat to withdraw American forces from Europe and Asia if those allies fail to pay more for American protection.

Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack, David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman, New York Times, today

Ooookay.  For all you folks who have never lived in the Rust Belt: Very large percentages of the populations in much of it are of Eastern European descent.*  Now, Illinois and Indiana aren’t in play this election, so it doesn’t matter that a substantial portion of the population of northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana are of Eastern European descent.*

On the other hand, Michigan, Trump thinks, is in play.  (I don’t, but we’ll go with his belief for the moment.)  And southeastern Michigan has, yes, a lot of people of eastern European ancestry.  And some of them are blue collar.  Ditto for the western third of Pennsylvania.  And the heavy manufacturing areas of northern, central and eastern Ohio.

Now sure, Mr. Trump, many of those voters have supported you.  But that was before there was much made in the media of the fact that you had earlier made clear that as Putin’s tanks are marching toward, say, Warsaw (that’s in Poland) you will be awaiting word from NATO’s debt collection agency on whether or not Poland had finally agreed on a payment plan, before deciding whether to order the U.S. military to halt the march of Russia’s army. But now that you are officially the Republican presidential nominee, this sort of thing is likely to get some fair amount of media play.  Possibly even on Fox News.

Look, I hesitate to be the one to break this to you, Mr. Trump.  After all, I’m not using a pseudonym here (joking; this is a pseudonym) and there does seem to be a reason for your assurance to Turkish duly-elected strongman Precep Erdogan (and the rest of the world) that you have no plans to try to dissuade him from imprisoning the entire two-thirds of the Turkish population that has criticized him at some point—another promise you reiterated in the Times interview.  And maybe your idea of national strength, now that you’re making it so very clear at such a critical time in the campaign, really is not what most Rust Belters normally think of as the diametric opposite of national strength: If that’s what Putin wants, we shouldn’t stop him, because Poland hasn’t paid us up and anyway Putin has said some very nice things about you.

But as a native of the Rust Belt, I think the better bet is that you just lost any chance you had to win Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.  And as a Democrat, I think that’s pretty cool.

*Typo correction: Oh, brother.  “Descent”.  Not ‘dissent”.  I’m tempted to say ‘Pun intended.”  But, no, it was just a dumb mental slip.  Thanks, Lindsay Berge, for pointing it out in the Comments thread–and humorously suggesting it was a Freudian slip.  7/22 at 9:09 a.m.