With his enormous online platform, Mr. Trump has badgered and humiliated those who have dared to cross him during the presidential race. He has latched onto their vulnerabilities, mocking their physical characteristics, personality quirks and, sometimes, their professional setbacks. He has made statements, like his claims about Ms. Jacobus, that have later been exposed as false or deceptive — only after they have ricocheted across the Internet.
Many recipients of Mr. Trump’s hectoring are fellow politicians, with paid staff members to help them defend themselves. But for others, the experience of being targeted by Mr. Trump is nightmarish and a form of public degradation that they believe is intended to scare off adversaries by making an example of them.
And as more mainstream forces in the Republican Party try to unite to stop his march to the nomination, they are finding that the fear of taking on Mr. Trump is discouraging his would-be opponents from signing on to the fight.
“I’ve never encountered an American politician at this level that people are literally afraid of — donors are afraid of him,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, a magazine that has criticized Mr. Trump. He added, “If it was Hillary Clinton that was doing it, the entire right-wing world would erupt in outrage, understandably and correctly.”
It is not just that Mr. Trump has a skill for zeroing in on an individual’s soft spot and hammering at it. It is that he sets a tone of aggression against the person, and his supporters echo and amplify it.
...Even when Mr. Trump moves on to something or someone else on Twitter, his followers linger on the last fight.
[Rich] Lowry, who devoted an issue of his magazine to critiquing Mr. Trump and has welcomed the candidate’s scorn, said he received a flood of hostile Twitter attacks from Mr. Trump’s followers after the issue was published. Their posts, he said, regularly include “some really vile, neo-Nazi-issue white nationalist, heinous personal abuse, kind of racially tinged stuff.”