Even A Big Midterm Loss Won't Matter To Trump

[ Posted Wednesday, September 7th, 2022 – 15:12 UTC ]

Will Donald Trump's influence over the Republican Party ever wane? That question has frustrated many who sincerely hope the answer might someday be "yes," because it just never seems to really happen. Which brings up the next possibility for such a partywide epiphany: if Republicans blow the midterm elections in a big and spectacular way, how much of the blame will attach to Trump? He will certainly deserve a whopping portion of the blame, but whether any of it actually sticks to him is an open question.

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that Democrats pick up governors' offices and hold the line on all (or at least most) of the whackadoodle Trumpian candidates for important offices like secretaries of state. Let's further posit that Democrats pick up three seats in the Senate, leaving Chuck Schumer in control and refreshingly able to ignore Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. And the biggest surprise of all is that Democrats actually pick up five seats in the House, dashing Republican dreams of endless investigations into Joe Biden (and anyone else they can think of, probably starting with Dr. Anthony Fauci).

This is beyond optimistic, I should at least point out. Call it a heat-induced late-summer daydream, if you will. But it is at least theoretically possible. It would depend on a number of factors all going the Democrats' way in the next few months, but it certainly could happen. If gas prices continue to drop and the nationwide average price per gallon is hovering somewhere between $3.00 and $3.50, it will largely have ceased to be a big political issue. If the inflation number drops for two more months, Democrats will be able to say: "We're heading in the right direction," while Republicans will be left with doomsday talk and no viable solution to offer the voters. Both of these positive trends, if they come to pass, will likely also boost Biden's poll numbers, which have already improved by over five points in the past month or so. People will see us heading in the right direction, not the wrong direction -- and so they'll be more content with sticking by the party in power.

But the real wild card in the voter-turnout deck is probably going to be abortion. Women (and more than a few men) are absolutely outraged that we have turned back the clock and are removing freedoms. Basic rights about one's own autonomy are now on the ballot. Republicans simply cannot be trusted not to roll back women's rights even further, if given the chance. This message is resonating across America, and it could lead to a large turnout of women who previously never would have shown up to a midterm election. Nobody knows the scope of this phenomenon yet, but this could include a large surge of young voters, suburban voters, college-educated voters, and perhaps a few other demographics -- all of which favor Democrats. Young and college-educated voters already skew heavily Democratic, and suburban women have been fleeing the Republican Party ever since the rise of Donald Trump. Removing their rights and their daughters' rights is only going to add to this movement.

So perhaps this daydream will actually come to pass. Chuck Schumer will be rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of getting rid of the legislative filibuster and finally getting some big Democratic agenda items passed. Mitch McConnell may even retire, after losing such a winnable midterm year. Nancy Pelosi will also face calls to step down and make way for a younger generation of Democratic leadership, but I'd only put the odds of her leaving at perhaps 50-50. She would be sorely tempted to stick around for another couple of years knowing that the Senate could actually pass a whole bunch of the bills her House has regularly been sending over there. With a bigger majority to work with in her own House, it would be a piece of cake to pass all these bills in the next Congress and actually see most of them make it to President Biden's desk.

How would such a crushing defeat play out on the Republican side, though? From confident predictions of a "red wave" crashing up against what some are already calling the "Roe wave" would be a massive letdown for the party. Fingers of blame would be pointed, no doubt. Many of them directly at Donald Trump.

Trump, after all, was the force behind many of the current nominees winning their primary races. And many of these Trump-sponsored nominees are seriously flawed goods. If the Republican Party poobahs had gotten their way, more mainstream candidates would have made the cut, and they probably would have had a lot better chance of winning in November. So it would be easy to put blame on Trump for championing candidates that wound up losing.

Trump is already reportedly terrified of this. He knows if his chosen candidates flop and leave the Senate in Chuck Schumer's hands that he will be blamed. But would any of this blame actually stick to him?

This is where the dream of Trump's grip on the GOP slipping may fall apart. There are plenty of Republican politicians who would dearly love to see the party to move away from Trump, but are too cowardly to say that out loud. So even if a brave few started grumbling about Trump losing a winnable election, most would probably remain silent. The "never-Trumpers" will be hammering the point home, though, so Trump is going to be faced with at least some intra-party blame for the loss.

So how will he respond? In any election which is even somewhat close, Trump's go-to response is guaranteed to be: "The election was rigged." He'll be proving Joe Biden's point -- that Republicans accept any election they win but refuse to accept any where they lose. Trump, however, will roll it all into his own continued obsession with his 2020 loss. For elections that weren't even close, Trump will find someone to blame other than himself. Candidates for his scapegoating will likely include: the candidates themselves ("He just ran a bad race, what could I do?"), the media, bad advice from campaign consultants, Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott (who is running the Senate GOP campaign effort), and who knows, perhaps even Hillary Clinton or Dr. Fauci (just for old time's sake). Trump will gleefully point the finger of blame towards anyone else but him. He will do so loudly, belligerently, and he will demand his followers believe it. And they probably will.

Would anything change within the Republican Party if they suffer a large midterm loss in what should have been an eminently-winnable year? At this point, it seems doubtful. Remember the post-mortem some Republicans put together after Mitt Romney's loss in 2012? It came up with all kinds of good ideas about how the GOP could modernize itself and appeal to a much wider public. And then it was completely ignored, and Donald Trump happened. The party went exactly the opposite way from what the post-mortem urged. So even if there are some wise voices within the Republican Party who urge the party to move away from Trump, it would probably have exactly the same impact -- that is to say, little to none (and even "little" is being extremely generous). If the post-mortem had worked, someone like Jeb Bush would have won the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, not Trump. And now that he's got a stranglehold on the party, he's not going to let go any time soon.

Look at the past few months. Republicans dearly wanted to essentially ignore Trump for the midterms so they could run a classic "make it a referendum on the sitting Democratic president" race. They would just hit Biden on his record, and the voters would do what they normally do in midterm years -- enough disaffected Democrats wouldn't show up at the polls, and Republican enthusiasm would carry the day.

That was before the Dobbs decision, of course. Before the issue of abortion fired up the Democratic base. But even without that, Republicans still couldn't have distanced themselves from Trump much at all. First there was a month of blockbuster hearings into the insurrection on January 6th. That put Trump front and center, once again. Then when that was finally dying down, the F.B.I. searched Trump's golf club to recover hundreds of top secret documents that Trump had stolen. This, again, put Trump in the spotlight. Republicans couldn't have drifted away from Trump during all this even if they had wanted to. And the important thing to remember about the Trump Show is that it never ends. There will always be something new for Trump to get outraged about, and when Trump is outraged, a large portion of the Republican base is also going to be outraged. So Republican politicians have to go along for the ride, whether they want to or not.

If Democrats do beat all the odds and manage a real blowout midterm election, the wiser of the Republicans might begin saying: "Trump is a loser, and he's causing the party to become a loser as well!" And they'd have a point. A big fat one.

But Trump showed that he could win an election by turning out hordes of people that had never voted before. The electorate swelled with new voters, most of whom the pollsters hadn't even noticed. But ever since then, the Democrats have answered in kind. Turnout has been way up, in each election since 2016. If another wave of new Democratic voters appears in 2022 (driven largely by the Dobbs decision, most likely), it might prove the limits of Trump's general appeal. But while you can make an intellectual argument that the GOP really should distance themselves from Trump, putting that into practice is probably going to be impossible. Because if all the fervent Trump voters stopped voting, the Republican Party would be in even more dire straights.

So even though it would be the smart thing to do, it's pretty hard to see how a massive midterm loss would change Trump's influence on the Republican Party at all. The next big election, of course, will happen in 2024, and Trump will be running. It won't be just "Trumpism" or "Trump-endorsed candidates" on the ballot, it will be Trump himself. Convincing sane heads within the Republican Party apparatus that Trump is a loser who is dragging the party down is a lot easier than convincing Republican voters to abandon Trump. Trump has already proved that, by his favored candidates winning so many Republican primaries. And the next time around, more-moderate GOP candidates won't just have to make the "I am more electable" argument, they will have to directly run against Trump.

The 2024 GOP presidential primary is shaping up to be a repeat of 2016. The anti-Trump forces will likely be split. There will be candidates who are "like Trump, but less Trumpy" who will refuse to badmouth Trump himself, while gently pointing out that someone who believes in the whole Trump agenda but without all of his baggage would have a better chance at winning. Then there will be the truly anti-Trump candidates, who aren't afraid of taking Trump on directly. But it is highly doubtful whether the anti-Trump forces will coalesce around a single candidate early enough in the race to have a real chance of beating him.

Remember, Trump won most of his primaries in 2016 with only around a third of the vote. Two-thirds of the party voted for someone else, but Trump won. If enough candidates had dropped out early to leave Trump facing only one or perhaps two strong contenders, he might have been beaten. But that didn't happen, and a repeat performance seems more than likely for 2024. It already seems almost probable that Chris Christie, Larry Hogan, and perhaps even Liz Cheney will run in opposition to Trump. And there could easily be more of them. This will, once again, split the anti-Trump voters. Unless one of them breaks from the pack very early on, it will result in Trump beating the field in lots of primaries.

This is all a sunshine daydream, of course. But since it is, let's extend it out even further. Because I have come to believe now that the only thing that will ever move large parts of the Republican Party away from Trump is going to be Trump losing the 2024 election for president. Losing an easily-winnable midterm election isn't going to do it. Trump will blame everyone under the sun (except him) for the losses. He will heap scorn on all and sundry within the Republican Party. But it certainly won't stop him from immediately jumping in the 2024 race. And once that circus begins, who will be talking about the midterms anymore?

No, Trump's got to lose the presidency again before GOP voters are ever going to walk away from him. If Trump loses again, it will be painfully obvious to all that he is his own worst nightmare: a loser. And sticking with a loser is going to mean more and more GOP losses. So at that point, Republican voters may still have a very warm spot for Trump in their hearts, but they'll listen a lot harder to arguments about candidates' electability from that point going forward. Until then, though, this fever is just not going to break.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


11 Comments on “Even A Big Midterm Loss Won't Matter To Trump”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Well, it's nice to dream...

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Is it a certainty that Trump will run in 2024? Nothing will stop him, like maybe home confinement?

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    A tougher question to answer is what to do as a country if all Trump's people win?

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    This is beyond optimistic, I should at least point out. Call it a heat-induced late-summer daydream, if you will. But it is at least theoretically possible.

    CW you appear stuck in conventional wisdom group think regarding the Dems chances in November.

    A perfect storm of decades of damage from Reaganism plus Donald Trump plus a million dead Americans from Covid etc has changed politics in at least two fundamental ways:

    "Politician speak" will no longer get it done
    as Trump is evil but this Libtard has to admit that his refreshingly direct, colloquial speaking style has changed our politics for good. No one will miss the old style. And Stuttering Joe is okay because his foot in mouth disease is authentic and the opposite of salesman Trump.

    All the extra dead Americans, the resulting economic crash and now Dobbs has made more people aware that politics matters
    and can have life and death effects. It also puts Repug culture wars distractions in perspective. Repugs will fight teachers but not the NRA.That's why both Joe and The Donald both got so many votes in 2020 and it's why Dem turnout is on a multi election roll.

    Or maybe you just don't want to jinx the Good Guys -- I feel ya. But I've yet to see a cogent argument for putting the Repugs back in charge. But inflation! And Hunter's laptop! Huh?

    Ehile indictments of Repug Congresscritters before the Mids may not happen we still have Season Two of J6C. So while I'm not holding my breath, this election has IMO clearly changed from being the Repugs Midterms to lose to The Dems Mids to lose, and for plenty good reasons.

    Oh, and Trump won't wait until after November to declare. I still say by the end of September, due to dangerous fallout from the MAL Raid.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Operator Starsky points out Ukraine has regained 45,000 square kilometers held by the Rooskies in March. Russia has captured 1% of that (450 square kilometers) in their Donbas offensive.

    So long as the West Keeps Ukraine supplied it's only a matter of time before Ukraine regains its pre-2014 borders.

  6. [6] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Queen Elizabeth II has died.

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    And my condolences to ya, Elizabeth. She presided over a remarkable British journey over her decades. A good woman, methinks. I'll always remember her trying to get around clueless Donald Yes America did this to Itself Trump. The expression on her face is forever frozen in my mind, filed under PRICELESS.

    God Save the Queen.

    Requiescet in pace

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Ooo! That's that's...gotta hurt!

    And right on the heels of a freshly announced investigation into Trump's Save America PAC.

    You know, the PAC that took in a cool quarter of a billion post election dollars from all the Trumpanzies.

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    It looks like the second link which takes you to a NYT article does beat their payday (I subscribe to both the NYT and WaPo.)

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    ...does Bear their PAYWALL.

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    (Bleeping auto correct)

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