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Is Trump Fading?

[ Posted Thursday, July 29th, 2021 – 15:47 UTC ]

Is Donald Trump's stranglehold over the Republican Party fading? One can only hope....

It is indisputable that Trump's voice is fading. Banished from polite online society, Trump is now reduced to sending out an email blast every once in a while and doing interviews on far-right media outlets. This does get his message out to his base, but with a lot smaller a megaphone than he once wielded to his tens of millions of social media followers.

Trump is also still completely fixated on his Big Lie, that the 2020 election was somehow stolen away from him. Most other Republican politicians would really prefer to move on and start talking about other subjects (any other subjects!) in order to get ready for their 2022 midterm campaigns. Trump keeps trying to drag them backward, so now most of them just genuflect and give a little lip service to the Big Lie and then try to pivot to talking about something else. Not so with Trump, for whom the issue is absolutely central, even to this day.

But what this has meant is that Trump isn't paying a whole lot of attention to what's been going on in the political world in the meantime. There have been remarkably few broadsides launched against Joe Biden, for example. Trump made a very late entry into the fray of the infrastructure bill negotiations, but even this seems halfhearted and rather weak. Mostly, Trump is just annoyed that the one thing he promised over and over again on the campaign trail -- but then never even came close to delivering on -- is going to be achieved by Biden working with Senate Republicans. Trump doesn't have any ideological objection to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he just has an enormous sense of resentment that Biden could so easily do what Trump obviously never could.

Earlier in the week, before the final deal was announced, Trump jumped into the discussion:

On Tuesday, Trump had thundered "don't do the infrastructure deal, wait until after we get proper election results in 2022 or otherwise, and regain a strong negotiating stance." "Republicans, don't let the Radical Left play you for weak fools and losers!"

He got a little more heavy-handed when it appeared that the deal was actually going to materialize (the Senate actually voted 67-32 to begin debate on the bill, with even Mitch McConnell voting to advance it):

"Hard to believe our Senate Republicans are dealing with the Radical Left Democrats in making a so-called bipartisan bill on 'infrastructure,' with our negotiators headed up by SUPER RINO Mitt Romney," Trump said in one of his recent statements, functionally a long-form tweet. He added that the legislation "is a loser for the USA, a terrible deal, and makes the Republicans look weak, foolish, and dumb.... Don't do it Republicans -- Patriots will never forget! If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way!"

This is the biggest cannon in Trump's arsenal -- or it used to be, at any rate. Trump has collected quite a few GOP scalps on his wall, from Republicans whose political careers Trump either destroyed or forced an early end to. But his endorsement record got a little worse this week.

A House seat in Texas had a special election this Tuesday. The winner of this seat last November died of COVID-19 this February, so a special election was necessary to fill the seat. Susan Wright, his widow, got Trump's endorsement early on. Here is Trump stumping for her just before the election happened:

"Big election tomorrow in the Great State of Texas!" Trump said Monday. "Susan Wright supports America First policies, our Military and our Veterans, is strong on Borders, tough on Crime, Pro-Life, and will always protect our Second Amendment" -- the same generic litany that he applies to nearly every person he endorses, assuming they are the most important factors. "Susan has my Complete and Total Endorsement," the statement concluded. "She will never let you down! Go out and vote for Susan Wright."

However, when the votes were counted, Wright lost to her Republican challenger (the election was a "top two" runoff, and both of the top two candidates from the earlier round were Republicans). Trump's influence just didn't get the job done for Wright.

Now, this is only one piece of data. It is, in fact, a datum. Drawing a trend from it would be premature. Especially since Wright didn't do a very good job raising money and reportedly didn't do a great job of campaigning, either. The turnout was pathetically low (reportedly only 11 percent of the 2020 turnout). And all House races are incredibly local in nature, by design. So you really can't draw too sweeping a conclusion from Trump's loss here.

Trump, of course, is drawing an entirely different kind of conclusion. In fact, he reacted in the most Trumpian fashion imaginable. Here he is, at his Trumpiest:

"This is not a loss, again, I don't want to claim it is a loss, this was a win," the former president with a penchant for lying about election results (most notably his own 2020 defeat to President Joe Biden) told Axios on Wednesday.

"The big thing is, we had two very good people running that were both Republicans. That was the win," Trump added of the race for the open seat of Wright's late husband, Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas), who died in February after contracting the coronavirus.

But whether Trump wants to admit it or not, it was indeed a personal loss for him and his political brand. And every one of these losses -- in a Republican primary or in a runoff election between two Republicans -- further diminishes his threat to sitting GOP politicians. If a Trump threat to "primary" a Republican doesn't automatically equate to the end of your political career, then GOP politicians are going to be a lot less worried about such threats. Which diminishes Trump's strongest weapon.

Trump's power within the Republican Party ultimately comes from the base voters who adore him. But he's slipping a bit even there, too:

It's certainly safe to assume that Republicans still view Trump as an essential part of the party and his endorsement as an important stamp of validation. But Trump's favorability ratings with his party have slipped since he left office, particularly since the events of Jan. 6.

Polling conducted by YouGov for the Economist shows that in November, about 75 percent of Republicans had a strongly favorable view of Trump, with 90 percent having a favorable view of him overall. This month, that has slipped to 61 percent strongly favorable and 84 percent favorable overall -- meaning not only a decline in how favorably he is viewed but also a softening of it, with more people saying they view him somewhat favorably than they did then.

Now, 84 percent overall approval is still sky-high. Slipping six points here isn't that big a deal. But the other number is more interesting. Trump lost 14 percent in the "strongly favorable" column, which is a lot bigger dip. Over one-third of Republicans no longer strongly favor Donald Trump. A lot of them have essentially moved on from Trump, at least to some degree or another. This is probably a function of Trump's shrunken social media megaphone more than anything else. After a solid four-year diet of daily rants and outrageous tweets, Trump is now only offering an occasional reminder of what that time was like, in a much more subdued and smaller way.

Trump is really zero-for-two this week, as the infrastructure bill he thought he could derail moved forward in the Senate and his handpicked House candidate lost a race in Texas. Again, this isn't a lot of data and might not develop into a true trend. But still, you have to wonder whether Trump's stranglehold over the Republican Party might not be slipping at least a tiny bit. Is Trump truly fading? Only time will tell (there's a close Republican primary for another House special election in Ohio coming up which might test this theory). But no matter how much "winning" he claims, Donald Trump just isn't having a very good week.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


9 Comments on “Is Trump Fading?”

  1. [1] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Biden might be 'fading' along with Trump. What kind of a dumb-assed message does it send to the vaccinated to reward the UNvaccinated with $100 for being stupid?

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    they're paying people not to get vaccinated?

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Biden's "dumb-assed message" is, in fact, a message for all the UNvaxxed "dumb-asses" in America.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Ahhhhh, so it's free money to stop being dumb for 15 minutes. got it!

  5. [5] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    I hate to put principle in the way of good political blogging, but I couldn't help but notice and resent that almost all of your quote-boxes were quotes from the former president. Granted, he's the subject of your piece today - but just as I automatically switch radio stations whenever his voice begins to speak, so I skip over any reportage where he is directly quoted. (I don't watch TV, saving me an incredible amount of stress in this area, among so many others.)

    On the radio side, it's because I have always found his voice incredibly annoying. On the printed quote side, it's because he is notoriously a liar of such incredible proportions that time spent reading anything he says is basically time wasted. One immediately has to assume that nothing in the quote can be taken seriously, and so what does that mean about the person / reporter / blogger who is providing those quotes? Best to skip ahead and avoid that painful conflict - maybe the reportage will provide a summary that establishes the writer's point or goal (as yours, thank you, does).

    So given that I didn't read everything, I can't quite believe that the former president is really losing his existential hold on the party formerly known as Republican. As you admit, the data points are too sparse, and too small in variation, to be taken as anything more than noise at this point. I'll wait until the Party leaders actively contradict and disrespect him to their constituencies. And I won't hold my breath.

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    as always, donald is just saying the quiet part out loud. never mind that it's a lie (it's always a lie). every republican but him hedges and pretends they're not actually saying it. he just says it.

  7. [7] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    ...but, but, but single point trend lines are my favorite; the possibilities are endless.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Yep, too early to tell. I thought the Repugs would have moved on from Trumpism by now, but I didn't expect the level of GQP cowardice that we've seen.

    Now, had Trump's gal won (and especially if she won bigly) that would be of greater significance.

  9. [9] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    I see on a couple of news sources that the Justice Department has said that the House Ways & Means Committee is entitled to see Trump's tax returns.

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