Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Is Trump Losing His Influence Over GOP Primary Voters?

Speaking at the Gridiron Dinner on Saturday, New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu mocked former President Donald Trump:

"You know, he’s probably gonna be the next president. No, I’m just kidding. He’s fucking crazy. Are you kidding? Oh, come on.”''

Later, Governor Sununu took another dig at Trump's mental health:

“The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And, and, I’ll say it this way. This is probably the best way. I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out.”

The crowd roared with laughter.   

In a later interview, Sununu tried to soften his comments about Trump by saying that it was just a joke and that Trump would get a big laugh out of it.  Nobody believes either of those things is true.  The "joke" Governor Sununu said is what virtually every elected Republican feels about Trump, but have been too afraid to say out loud due to Trump's dominance of Republican primary voters.   As far as Trump appreciating a good joke at his expense...well, he most famously does not.  Trump is notoriously thin-skinned and insecure.  He certainly does not like to be the butt of a joke.

Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH)

Sununu, who undoubtedly aspires to a future outside the New Hampshire's governor's mansion, no doubt considered the political impact of his mocking the former President.  After all,  the jokes were not made off the cuff...they were part of a prepared presentation.  Sununu's political calculation was that there was an opening, that Trump's cultish hold over his base was weakening.

Indeed, that appears to be the case. Trump has endorsed several candidates going into the 2020 GOP primary.  While most of his anointed candidates will win their primary, several notable ones appear to be struggling.  The most prominent one is former Georgia Senator David Purdue who was induced to put his hat in the ring to oppose Republican Governor Brian Kemp.  Trump has a well-publicized grudge against Governor Kemp who refused to ignore the actual election results (confirmed by multiple recounts) in order to hand the state to Trump.  Kemp is far ahead in the polls and looks likely to have a general election rematch with former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.  Notably, Abrams, like Trump, claims the election was stolen without offering any proof.

In Alabama, Congressman Mo Brooks was endorsed by Trump, but that endorsement failed to gin up much support in the state.  Indeed, after the endorsement, Brooks' numbers fell to the point where he  was running a distant third.  As a result, Trump pulled the endorsement.  

By the way, look for that approach to be replicated in other races.  If an endorsed candidate is running behind, Trump may well pull the endorsement claiming that the candidate is not running on the right issues or is not Trumpian enough.  That way, Trump can avoid taking a loss on his record.  There is the real possibility that will happen in the Georgia Governor's race.

In Idaho, Trump gave his "complete and total endorsement" to Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin who is challenging Governor Brad Little in the GOP primary.  The endorsement appears not to have helped McGeachin as she trails Governor Little badly in the polls.

The 2022 primary season is Trump's revenge tour.  It doesn't appear to be going that well.  It would certainly help if Trump used some of the millions he's raised to support his endorsed candidates. But Trump has a history of not sharing his campaign cash, so that's not likely to happen.

As far as 2024 goes, I still think it's less than 50-50 that Trump runs.  (Though, to fleece his flock as much as possible, Trump will play the role of possible candidate as long as he can.) This weekend, Meet the Press' Chuck Todd had the best two word explanation as to why Trump might choose not run:

"It's work."  

Exactly.  Running to be President of the United States is a lot of work.  I'm not convinced that Trump, who will turn 78 years old in 2024, will want to put in the work to be President again.  

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