Trump knows what he's doing with those tweets — setting his 2020 strategy

Trump knows what he's doing with those tweets — setting his 2020 strategy
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If it’s Trump vs. Biden, Biden wins, according to every poll. If it’s Trump vs. “the Squad,” Trump wins. 

On his way to North Carolina for a rally late Wednesday, Trump said as much, claiming that he was “enjoying” the fight with progressive Democratic congresswomen and that he is “winning” it. The rally crowd came up with a new chant, with shades of Hillary Clinton, aimed at his favorite target among the four congresswomen, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair endorses Sanders MORE (D-Minn.): “Send her back!” 

Trump’s no genius. He’s still playing “Celebrity Candidate” in need of hand-holding. Still, when he figured out what kind of campaign he was going to have to run in 2020, he wanted to start running it right away — on Twitter. 

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He did, blaring out his main argument for reelection: I will protect what you have from socialist Democrats, as epitomized by four congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia Here are the 10 senators who voted against Trump's North American trade deal Artist paints Michelle Obama, other women as battered in campaign against domestic violence MORE (D-N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Michigan governor urges Zuckerberg to enforce community guidelines after hate speech, threats surface Ayanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia MORE (D-Mich.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia Ayanna Pressley opens up about having alopecia for first time, reveals bald head in interview Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair endorses Sanders MORE (D-Mass.) and Omar — who should go back where they came from for hating our country.  

Trump had watched in horror as House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiREAD: House impeachment managers' trial brief Desperate Democrats badmouth economy even as it booms Pelosi offers message to Trump on Bill Maher show: 'You are impeached forever' MORE (D-Calif.) outmaneuvered him by distancing herself from her most outspoken left-wingers. With a few tweets, he drove Pelosi back into their arms where they now perch, in full throttle, wrapped around her neck. 

That he did it on Twitter doesn’t diminish how important the message is. Twitter is his Federalist Papers, containing as much of a philosophy of governing as he possesses. Tweeting where he stood on the Squad wasn’t an off-the-cuff outburst. It was an announcement — and he didn’t need to spend a cent to spread it. 

He thumbed it out with caps and break-the-glass punctuation. He repeated it with a dramatic reading from the South Lawn of the White House before the full press corps. For four days, with the world listening and watching, the president said that America is for native Americans — with the exception of his first and third wives — and he will keep it that way. How’s that for an early get-out-the-vote effort? 

Trump quickly achieved his real goal of luring Democrats out of their corners to side with the Squad in the interest of calling him to heel for his racism. He made it look as if the Democrats weren’t being led by Pelosi, whom he fears and secretly admires, but by the Squad. And not just Pelosi — who’d previously gone public with her rebuke of them — but the whole party. As one, they embraced the congresswomen, a bundle of hard-to-defend tweets themselves, in the necessary cause of condemning Trump. 

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The upshot is that Trump got to present himself as the savior of the still majority-white population. Race is a playing field he knows and wins on, from breaking fair housing laws with a mere fine to gaining a foothold in politics by lying about Barack Obama not being born here. He’s sending a similar nationalist message to his voters about protecting them from the brown people, through ICE raids (whether or not they’re real) and the inhumane conditions in the holding cells at the border.  

In doing so, he draws out Democrats who, to save their souls, have to rail against the obvious illegality and inhumanity of what Trump’s doing. They come off as the party of open borders. And socialists to boot. Mission accomplished.

Trump doesn’t like to read but he does like numbers. He knows, after the 2018 midterms, that expanding his base will be hard. He’s not going to pick up many college-educated suburbanites. He hasn’t broken 50 percent favorability, and he’s not going to start now. He just has to sweep the same states as 2016. 

It was at the expense of being labeled a “racist” for the first time in some papers such as the Washington Post, which explained its decision to do so. But that’s discounted as fake news by Trump’s followers and, indeed, it was not enough to put off more than four Republicans from voting to support the so-called racist. That vote in the House on a resolution of condemnation was carried live and blotted out all other news. Then on Wednesday, an attempt to impeach the president failed by a 332-to-95 vote. Has anyone heard a word that Democratic candidates for president have said about health care or student debt since Sunday?

Last time around, Trump barely knew the difference between the popular vote and the electoral college vote. This time, it’s all he knows. And his best bet to keep the 77,000 votes in the three swing states he swung in 2016 is to loudly adopt Pelosi’s rewrite of the logo on the ubiquitous MAGA merchandise. To get re-elected, Trump has made it clear he’s campaigning to “Make America White Again.”

Margaret Carlson has covered politics for Time, The New Republic and Bloomberg. She currently writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Follow her on Twitter @carlsonmargaret.