Is Donald Trump the gift that keeps on giving – to Democrats?
During a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on Nov. 7, former President Donald Trump said, “Not to distract from tomorrow’s very important, even critical election… I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.” The comment, Fox News reported, set the stage “for Trump to take credit for a successful Election Day for Republicans” and declare his candidacy for president of the United States in 2024.
The next day, in anticipation of a “red wave” sweeping across the country, Trump added: if the candidates he endorsed did well, “I should get all the credit. If they lose, I should not be blamed at all.” On Tuesday evening, Trump tweeted: “a great evening… Amazing job by some fantastic candidates.”
Republicans did not do well.
Trump is already being blamed for Republicans’ unexpected and disappointing performance in the midterms. And it is not at all clear what — if anything — he can or should say on Nov. 15 about the results.
The political party that controls the White House has lost seats in the House of Representatives 17 out of 19 times since 1945. The average loss is 27 seats. The only exceptions were 1998, following a disastrous government shutdown voters blamed on Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Congressional Republicans, and 2002 when the GOP gained eight seats as Americans rallied around President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The pattern is less consistent in the U.S. Senate — because only one-third of Senators are up for re-election, many of them in relatively safe seats.
In 2022, the Republicans are projected to gain far fewer than 27 seats in the House, and — as of this writing — control of the Senate is up for grabs.
Election deniers, many of whom were endorsed by Trump, are not faring well in competitive states.
Democrats have won governors’ races in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania against extremist MAGA Republicans.
They have retained Senate seats once thought to be up for grabs. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who was elected in 2016 by a razor thin margin, handily defeated Don Bolduc, an election denier whom Chris Sununu, the popular GOP governor of New Hampshire, dismissed as “not a serious candidate.” If Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and/or Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) are elected, they can join John Fetterman (D-Pa.) in thanking their weak Trump-endorsed opponents — Blake Masters, Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz, respectively. In the House, Mayra Flores (R-Texas), an avid Trump supporter, was defeated.
Meanwhile Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who Trump blasted in 2022 for refusing to find 11,780 votes for him, both coasted to victory.
Exit polls reveal that 60 percent of voters (and two-thirds of independents) have an unfavorable view of Donald Trump.
Apparently, Trump is apoplectic about the election results. He reportedly is blasting his advisers, including his wife, who he claims urged him to back Dr. Oz and other “bad candidates.”
Even as ballots continue to be counted, the postmortem pundits are pointing fingers at him. “If you’re a discerning Republican voter trying to figure out the future direction of the party,” conservative commentator Scott Jennings declared, “we once again learn that Trump is not a national winner for the Republicans.”
Florida Gov, Ron DeSantis (R), who can brag about his almost 20-point reelection victory in what once was a purple state, Jennings suggested, “may be the next evolution of someone who can marry what you like about Trump but also recover some people that went away from the party,” and say, “my way is the way to a national majority. His way is the way to a national minority.”
Trump has often announced an announcement he subsequently did not make. But if he doesn’t declare his candidacy on Nov. 15, the media across the spectrum will pounce. Potential rivals, including DeSantis, may well sense weakness. If Trump does announce another presidential run, he will need to craft a narrative about his role in the midterm elections that can pass the smell test — because after yesterday’s unexpectedly poor performance, even stalwart Republicans are now echoing Larry Sabato in asking whether Trump is “the gift that keeps on giving – for Democrats.”
Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of “Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.”
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