‘Trump Is In The Past’: Mounting Losses Show Limits Of Power

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(AP Photo/Joe Maiorana, File)

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Donald Trump opened May by lifting a trailing Senate candidate in Ohio to the Republican nomination, seemingly cementing the former president’s kingmaker status before another possible White House run. He’s ending the month, however, stinging from a string of defeats that suggests a diminishing stature.

Trump faced a series of setbacks in Tuesday’s primary elections as voters rejected his efforts to unseat two top targets for retribution: Georgia’s Republican governor and secretary of state, both of whom had rebuffed Trump’s extraordinary pressure to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But the magnitude of defeat in the governor’s race — more than 50 percentage points — was especially stunning and raised questions about whether Republican voters are beginning to move on from Trump.

Nearly six years after the onetime reality television star launched what seemed to be an improbable campaign for the White House, the “Make America Great Again” movement Trump helmed isn’t going anywhere. But voters are increasingly vocal in saying that the party’s future is about more than Trump.

“I like Trump a lot, but Trump is in the past,” said David Butler of Woodstock, Georgia, who voted for Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday and said Trump’s endorsements had “no” impact “whatsoever” on his thinking.

It was the same for Will Parbhoo, a 22-year-old dental assistant who also voted for Kemp.

“I’m not really a Trumper,” he said after voting. “I didn’t like him to begin with. With all the election stuff, I was like ‘Dude, move on.’”

One thing Parbhoo liked about the current governor? “Kemp is focused on Georgia,” he said.

Trump sought to play down the losses by his favored candidates, saying on his social media platform Wednesday that he had a “very big and successful evening of political Endorsements” and insisting some races “were not possible to win.”

Still, the pattern of high-profile defeats is hard to ignore.

After JD Vance vaulted from third to first place following Trump’s late-stage endorsement in the Ohio Senate primary, the dynamics took a turn. Trump’s pick in Nebraska’s primary for governor, Charles Herbster, lost his race after allegations surfaced that he had groped women.

In Idaho a week later, the governor beat a Trump-backed challenger. In North Carolina, voters rebuffed Trump’s plea to give a scandal-plagued congressman a second chance. And in Pennsylvania, a marquee Senate primary featuring Trump-endorsed celebrity heart surgeon Mehmet Oz remains too close to call.

But his biggest upset was in Georgia, a crucial swing state, where former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump had lobbied to run and helped clear the field for, lost to Kemp. The governor was among Trump’s top targets after he refused to overturn the results of the 2020 White House election in his state.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who defied Trump’s call to “find” the votes to change the outcome two years ago — a call that is now under investigation — also won his party’s nomination. Attorney General Chris Carr and Insurance Commissioner John King — all opposed by Trump — were also successful in their primaires.

In Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks, whose Senate endorsement Trump rescinded as he struggled to gain traction, made it to a runoff, having gained support after Trump dropped him.

Trump has endorsed in nearly 200 races, from governor to county commissioner, often inserting himself into contests that aren’t particularly competitive and helping bolster his compilation of wins. Some of his work, even in races with multiple candidates, has paid off.

His early support helped football great Herschel Walker and Rep. Ted Budd sail to their respective Senate primary nominations in Georgia and North Carolina. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former press secretary, easily won the GOP nomination for governor in Arkansas. And even in Georgia, all of the candidates Trump endorsed in open races won or will head to runoffs.

Some allies say Trump’s endorsement tally is a poor measure of his influence, even if Trump constantly promotes that record.

They argue that voters may support the former president and be eager for him to run again, but may not be persuaded by his selections, especially in races with governors such as Kemp who have long histories with voters. And even without Trump on the ballot, the party has been transformed in Trump’s image, with candidates adopting his “America First” platform, mimicking his tactics and parroting his lies about a stolen election.

But with Trump out of office and relegated to posting on his own social media platform, other voices are beginning to fill the void. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the most watched personality on cable television, has becoming a driving ideological force in the party. Republicans such as the conspiracy-embracing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won her party’s nomination for reelection Tuesday, have taken up his mantle in Washington.

Meanwhile, potential presidential rivals to Trump are waiting in the wings for 2024.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has been distancing himself from Trump, rallied with Kemp in suburban Atlanta on Monday evening and told the crowd that “elections are about the future” — an implicit knock on his former boss.

Trump has also spawned a new generation of candidates who have channeled his “MAGA” brand, but who have done so independent of his support and see themselves as its next iteration.

“MAGA doesn’t belong to him,” Kathy Barnette, the Pennsylvania Senate candidate whose late-stage surge stunned party insiders, said in an interview. “Trump coined the word. He does not own it.”

While the left, she said, may see the “MAGA movement” as a “cult of Trump voters,” she said it goes far beyond one man. She argued that Trump had succeeded in 2016 because he aligned himself with voters’ concerns and said out loud what people were already thinking, particularly on immigration. She said she tried in her race to do the same.

“I do believe Trump has an important voice still,” she added, but “he needs to get better advisers, and in addition to that, he needs to do better himself in remembering why we aligned with him. And it wasn’t because we were aligning with his values. It was because he was aligning with our values. And I think he needs to remember that so that his voice can remain relevant.”

Other Republicans grouse that precious time and money have been wasted on an ego-driven Trump vengeance campaign, forcing incumbents to defend themselves in primaries rather than focus on general elections. They worry Trump has elevated some candidates who may prove unelectable in the November general election and has exacerbated divisions.

“There’s no question unnecessary fights with kind of the extremes of the party, of Trump’s grievance party, have made it more difficult for us to win in November,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential 2024 presidential candidate who has been working to protect incumbent governors.

Hogan, a Trump critic, said that, so far, the races have “been a bit of a mixed bag,”

“We’re in the middle of a battle for the soul of the Republican Party and quite frankly the battle’s not over yet,” he said. “I don’t think we can say exactly what the outcome is yet. And I think we still have many more primaries to go.”

Others are more confident in saying Trump’s power has diminished over time.

“The Trump endorsement is helpful but it is not something that by itself can put anyone over the top. And that means it’s less powerful than it was when he was president and it seemed like a fait accompli when he endorsed,” said Mike DuHaime, a longtime GOP strategist.

Still, he acknowledged that Trump is “still the most influential person in the party,” even if that influence has waned.

(AP)

8 COMMENTS

  1. First of all, Trump did not ask Kemp or Raffensperger to “overturn” the Georgia election or to “find” votes. Rather, he asked them to find the ILLEGAL and FRAUDELENT votes (such as pulling out four cases of votes from under a table in Fulton County after telling the press, republican representatives and everyone else to go home because there would be no more vote counting that night and then running those ballots threw the counting machines multiple times (as was caught on security camera video footage and shown in the Georiga state legislature).

    The FACT that Trump was asking them to investigate ILLEGAL and FRAUDELENT votes is obvious to anyone who actually listened to the FULL, UNEDITED version of Trump’s conversation with Raffensperger (as opposed to relying on the portrayal of that conversion by outlets like the AP).

    Secondly, no doubt that the Kemp and Raffensperger elections were a BIG upset for Trump and the MAGA movement. With that said, something like 86% percent of Trump’s endorsements have won this primary season — which is quite an impressive record. And that includes election victories on the same day and in the same state that Trump had the big upsets in Kemp and Raffensperger elections.

    So the “in the past” and “limits of power” statements are more wishful thinking of the AP then serious political analysis.

    In terms of why Trump was upset with Kemp — part of it has to do with Trump picking a really poor candidate in Purdue. Purdue is boring, is too connected with the Republican establishment and did not fight for Trump after the election when Trump most needed it. In short, he was a poor candidate who did nothing to excite the MAGA base and pose a serious challenge to Kemp.

    If anything, Trump should have encouraged Hershel Walker to run for Governor (instead of for the Senate). Then Trump could have had hope of defeating Kemp. But perhaps running for Senate was a safer move for Walker — either way, that was a Trump VICTORY on the same day that you noted the Trump LOSES.

    At the end of the day, it is true that Kemp won BIGLY (and Raffensperger also won, but not as BIGLY). And yet, a couple of big losses doesn’t eclipse a slew of wins (including some big wins).

    At the end of the day, Trump is still a major political force to reckon with (whether the AP likes that or not). It’s just that he is not the only political force to reckon with (whether Trump or his base likes that or not).

  2. 1. Just because the United States prohibits discrimination against old people, doesn’t mean that people who are well past retirement age should run for office.

    2. Trump is a proven loser, and politics tends to reject losers. He managed to to lose an election by running a dumb campaign (ignoring the importance of mail-in ballots and discouraging his supporters from voting), and managed to lose the Congress to a bunch of fools, even though at the same time the Republican party was winning the state elections.

  3. To My Two Cents: Your 2 cents are worthless. Trump very plainly asked Georgia Secretary of State Raffensberger to “find” a specific number (which was about 11,700) of votes which would give Trump a victory by one vote. The recording of the phone call was played approximately a zillion and one times.

    Actually, now that I think of it, you are half right, because if Raffensberger did find those votes, they would have been illegal and fraudulent, or, if you prefer, ILLEGAL and FRAUDULENT.

  4. @akuperma

    If you want to argue that Trump actually lost — then please explain to me the security camera footage from State Farm Arena in Fulton County Georgia. Any rational and reasonable explanation of why that isn’t blatant fraud will do.

    Secondly, I’m not sure what you mean by “lose” Congress. If you mean in `018 — the going trend is for the party who holds the Presidency loses seats in Congress in the first mid-term elections. However, his loses were far less then Obama’s or Bush’s. Secondly, he actually GAINED seats in the Senate in `018. Something rather rare in mid-term elections.

    Beyond that, in the last election, the Republicans WON (I believe) every single contested House raise (or close to it).

    Finally — not sure what you mean by a proven loser:

    * He beat 17 candidates for the Republican nomination.
    * He beat Hillary Clinton in the general election
    * He passed a massive tax bill in his first term
    * He nominated and got confirmed three supreme court justices
    * He nominated and got confirmed (I believe) hundreds of Federal court judges
    * He pulled off four different peace treaties or agreements (three in the middle east and one in Europe)
    * He rewrote Nafta
    * He defeated two attempts to impeach him
    * He defeated the Mueller investigation against him

    And I could go on.

    Compare his record to most presidents and it’s not even close the number of accomplishments he had. Not saying he was perfect — but a “proven loser” is simply a partisan attack, not a solid or honest analysis.

  5. @huju — Obviously you did NOT listen to the FULL recording. In the FULL recording, Trump goes through an estimate of the various types of fraudulent votes that he believes needed to be investigated:

    * People from out of state
    * Dead people who were dead
    * The votes from the video tape at State Farm Arena in Fulton County
    * And more

    He listed each category of fraudulent vote and states that in his teams estimate there are at least 200,000 fraudulent votes that were cast in the State of Georgia. And then Trump adds, but I don’t need you to investigate and find all 200,000 fraudulent votes, I only need you to find 11,800.

    That is the FULL context which one gets if they do their HOMEWORK and doesn’t just rely on the recordings and videos that are presented to them. In the FULL context, Trump states that OUT OF THE 200,000 or so estimated fraudulent votes, he only needs 11,800 FRAUDULENT votes to be discovered for him to win the state. Perfectly legitimate claim and 180 degrees the opposite of what was presented in the media.

    Now, I can note — that this type of deceptive editing goes both ways. There is a video clip of Biden stating that the Dems have put together the most comprehensive voter fraud system in the history of the country. If you listen to the FULL context of Biden’s remarks, you’ll understand that he means voter fraud DETECTION system. But on many conservative media outlets they took that statement OUT THE CONTEXT and play the tape as to imply that Biden made a Freudian slip and was referencing a scheme to commit voter fraud.

    And I can give you other examples. For example, Obama’s You Didn’t Make That statement — a reference to the bridges and infrastructure that businesses use to help them be successful. Taken out of context to imply that Obama is talking about the actually goods and services that the companies produce and the profits that come as a result.

    It’s a sick game — and they played that game over and over again with Trump (as is easy to see if one does their homework and gets the full clips rather then the deceptively edited clips).

    So you have a decision. You can continue to allow yourself to be deceived and/or take a partisan take on the news, or you can do the the hard work and find the full context of the audio and video clips you are given online and thereby become an honest and better informed consumer of the news.