Trump hopes for boost from Brexit vote

Trump hopes for boost from Brexit vote
© Getty Images

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE’s embattled campaign got a jolt of momentum on Friday from Britain’s stunning vote to abandon the European Union.


Trump – who supported the “Brexit” and fortuitously arrived on British soil Friday for a ribbon-cutting on his golf course in Scotland - came out on top of President Obama, who had lobbied voters against leaving the EU on a trip to London earlier this year.

It was Trump’s second political victory over Obama this week, coming on the heels of a Supreme Court decision that dealt a blow to the president’s immigration actions. Trump’s opposition to Obama’s “executive amnesty” has been a cornerstone of his campaign.

Trump badly needed momentum to swing in his favor after dealing with weeks of negative stories about his sagging poll numbers, embarrassing fundraising figures, campaign turmoil, panic among GOP elites and a renewed effort by some conservatives to topple him at the Republican National Convention next month.

“It’s been a good week that I think will allow him to move past some of these issues that have hampered him,” said veteran GOP operative Ed Rollins, who is running a Trump super-PAC.

Trump and his supporters seized on parallels between the historic Brexit decision and his own campaign.

The vote has widely been described as a populist rebuke against the political elites who had spent months warning voters about the dire consequences of such a dramatic move.

Many of the issues Trump has tapped into in the U.S. -- border security, the assimilation of immigrants, economic discontent and a roiling anger at the political establishment and status quo -- animated the debate over whether Britain should remain in the EU.

Pundits on British television quickly pivoted from their own shocking turn of fate to wondering whether the U.S. might experience its own seismic shake-up this November.

Those mirroring story lines enthused Trump’s supporters, who saw the outcome as vindication for his insurgent campaign and evidence that a similarly dramatic upheaval is possible on this side of the Atlantic in the fall.

“Too many politicians and pundits here in America have been woefully oblivious to, or in some cases complicit in, what is going on around us," said Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE (R-Ala.), Trump’s top ally on Capitol Hill and potentially his running mate.

“I believe the American people too will choose independence this November,” Sessions said.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote MORE’s campaign was quick to recognize the developing narrative -- seized on by conservative media outlets -- that the Brexit vote could foreshadow an upset victory by Trump in the general election.

In an impromptu conference call with reporters, senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan described the Brexit vote as “profoundly different” from the decision over who should be commander in chief.

“It’s important that we recognize that this American election is about what is happening here in America, not what’s happening in Yorkshire or in Cardiff,” Sulivan said.

Still, the developments have been enough to spook Trump’s critics, who say the Brexit vote should be a warning to Democrats about the mood of the electorate and the need to take Trump seriously as a presidential candidate.

The fact that the polls entering election day in Britain showed the “Remain” camp was likely to triumph provided an additional data point to worry over for those who don’t want to see Trump get elected. Clinton leads Trump by less than 6 points nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

“This is a wake-up call,” said Dov Zakheim, a top Republican foreign policy adviser who served under former President George W. Bush and opposes Trump.

“First of all, you can’t trust the pollsters. Second, Trump can now take the message to Americans and say – 'you’re not crazy to do this. Look at what the Brits did, and they’re known for being practical.' You’ve got your head in the sand if you’re not taking Trump seriously.”

Some interviewed by The Hill believe the Brexit effect for Trump is wildly overstated.

Bill Galston, a political campaigns expert at the Brookings Institution, said that any benefit Trump might get from energizing his supporters will be cancelled out by the panic the Brexit vote has inspired in liberals that could drive them to the polls.

“It cuts both ways,” Galston said. “The fact that people are better able to visualize the unexpected may very well mobilize the opposition against him.”

And Ian Bremmer, the founder of the international political consulting firm Eurasia, argued that it’s silly to believe a couple of policy victories will suddenly make Trump more appealing to uncommitted voters.

“There’s no upside for him when he’s magically right about some policy issue, just like there’s no downside for him when he says something cringe-worthy or stupid,” Bremmer said. 

“Trump doesn’t win on policy. This vote will have no impact. Zero. At the end of the day, he still has no money, no campaign infrastructure, and Republicans are still only tepidly supporting him. He faces enormous demographic challenges with blacks, women and Hispanics.”

Indeed, the British electorate is 87 percent white, which falls into Trump’s wheelhouse of supporters.

And Trump’s response to the developments gave his critics plenty of political ammunition to use against him.

The likely GOP nominee was only in Scotland on Friday to open a new golf course and resort, - not to weigh in on the most consequential British vote in modern times. 

Trump didn’t meet with any foreign leaders while he was there. Trump said that while he checked in with his foreign policy advisers about the developments, he determined that “there’s nothing to talk about” with them.

Over Twitter, Trump praised Scotland for leaving the EU, apparently unaware that the he had landed in a country that voted to remain.

And Trump talked about how panic in foreign currency markets, which sent the Sterling tumbling against the dollar, would bring tourists to his resort from abroad and therefore was good for business. Those remarks came just hours before U.S. stock market went into freefall.

Liberal groups sought to highlight those statements, emailing them around to supporters in mocking fashion.

And Clinton seized on the vote to make the case for “calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House” – a contrast her campaign will seek to drive home in the coming months as it seeks to frame Trump as belligerent and erratic.

“Donald Trump actively rooted for this outcome, and he’s rooting for the economic turmoil in its wake,” Sullivan said. “Every time there’s a significant global event, Donald Trump proves again that he’s temperamentally unfit for the job.”