Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Myth of Donald Trump as Political Genius; Trump Attorneys Earn Titanium Sombrero With Six Losses on Friday

I have long argued that Donald Trump is, in fact, a terrible politician.  He is good at winning primaries, no doubt, but he is horrible at adding voters to his base so his brand can win general elections.  Attorney Jason Harrow, an attorney with the non-profit Equal Citizens, makes the point well in a CNN editorial:

There remains a widespread view that, regardless of whether you agree with President Donald Trump's policies, we must all admit that he is a shrewd politician. Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Stephen Miller, one of Trump's senior advisers, have called him a "political genius" while Dilbert creator Scott Adams has made a new career of presenting Trump as someone he calls a "Master Persuader": that is, someone with "weapons-grade persuasion skills."


Now that the Trump presidency is coming to a close, can we finally stop with this nonsense? The evidence is in, and Trump is far from a once-in-a-generation political talent. Just the opposite: he is a polarizing politician who was lucky to eke out a victory in both the 2016 primary and general election. He could have won in 2020, but squandered his chances by failing to tackle the coronavirus, playing to his base, and focusing more on tweeting than on problem-solving. If the Republican Party wants to increase its odds at winning more elections in the coming decades, it should jettison Trump, instead of allowing him to hijack the future of the party.

To assess Trump's political prowess, let's look at his electoral results. In the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Trump took advantage of a divided field and won it narrowly: he ended up with 45% of the overall popular vote. This is the lowest percent of the vote for any Republican primary winner in the last two decades: Mitt Romney won 52% of the primary vote in 2012; McCain won 47% in 2008; Bush won 62% in his only contested primary in 2000.

Trump earned only tepid support from the party during much of the general election cycle in 2016. He did, of course, go on to win the presidential election in a surprising upset. But it was a narrow victory that ultimately came down to about 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump received nearly 3 million fewer votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — who was among the most disliked major party nominees in recent memory — and won with only 46.1% of the popular vote, a historically low number for a major party candidate.  

Trump's political chops didn't improve once he entered the White House. He wasn't only bad at governing (he had historically high staff turnover, failed in his promise to replace Obamacare with a Republican health care plan, and got nowhere with a promised infrastructure plan that should have been a slam dunk). His party also had a difficult four years at the ballot box. The Republicans got thumped in the 2018 Congressional midterms and lost several gubernatorial races in states he had won in 2016. In fact, in an Alabama special election in late 2017, he gave a late-breaking endorsement to the controversial Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who proceeded to lose in one of the most-Republican leaning states in the nation. Not exactly genius-level stuff here.

In 2020, Trump had two major advantages: he was an incumbent, and incumbents tend to win, and the election was held during a national crisis, which usually leads Americans to rally around their leader. But Trump lost anyway, and pretty badly at that. As in 2016, he failed to break the 50% mark in the popular vote and instead won only 46.9% of all votes, losing to Joe Biden by more than four percentage points and 7 million total votes.


Trump also did worse than other Republicans in 2020, signaling that voters preferred the Republican Party over Trump himself. The overall House vote, for instance, was about 2 points closer than the presidential race, which means that several million more people voted for Biden and a Republican House candidate than the reverse.

Trump also ran behind Republican Senate candidates in many key states, and those margins were particularly wide where the candidates were known for breaking with Trump. In Maine, moderate Republican Susan Collins won her race by nearly 9 points while Trump lost the state by 9 points. In Nebraska, frequent Trump critic Ben Sasse beat his Democratic challenger by substantially more than Trump's margin over Biden in the Cornhusker State.

All of this leads to one conclusion: if Republicans are smart, they will quickly realize Trump is a polarizing demagogue who poses a liability to the GOP....Y


When a major league baseball player strikes out four times in one game, he is said to have received the "golden sombrero."   Strike out five times and the sombrero is upgraded to platinum.  A sixth strikeout makes the award a "titanium sombrero" or a "horn," a term coined by Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Flannigan when his teammate Sam Horn pulled off the inglorious feat in 1991.  For the record, in the history of major league baseball, only 8 players have struck out six times in a game and all required extra innings to accomplish the feat.

The Trump campaign and its allies earned a titanium sombrero on Friday, having cases dismissed in six states Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nevada.   Despite continued losses, it was announced that the Trump campaign and its allies would be filing new lawsuits in Arizona and Georgia.

These Trump lawsuits are being dismissed by Republican and Democratic judges in both federal and state courts.  The reason why is that, while the attorneys claim fraud outside the courtroom, they don't present any fraud once they walk into court.  Plus, the remedies they seek - throwing out election results - don't follow from the wrong claimed.  

At some point, these judges need to wake up to the fact that the Trump campaign and its allies are using their courts to advance the false narrative of a "stolen election."  The Trump attorneys are filing lawsuits with no expectation whatsoever they will be successful.   The time has long passed for these judges to start sanctioning the plaintiffs and their attorneys who are misusing the legal system. 

OOP's short takes:

  • Tonight President Trump holds a rally in Georgia, presumably to try to help the two GOP Senate candidates, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in their bid to win the run-off election set for January 5th.  Needless to say, Georgia Republicans are nervous. Instead of promoting the two, Trump is likely to spend his time attacking Georgia elected officials, like Governor Kemp and Secretary of State Raffensperger, claiming they allowed the election in the state to be "rigged" for Joe Biden.
  • Didn't the Trumpers say that Covid-19 would disappear after the election?  How's that working out?
  • Will someone explain Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr?  Both came to the end of their professional careers and decided to flush their reputations down the toilet for Donald J. Trump? Why?  Was it really worth it?

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