Mo Brooks is so “woke” that he spoke at the rally in D.C. on January 6 that preceded the insurrection and told the crowd, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!”
He’s so “woke” that Trump endorsed him for Senate in Alabama nearly a full year ago, declining to wait to see how the field might shake out due to his enthusiasm for Brooks.
And Brooks was understandably excited about that endorsement. Having Trump’s backing usually — usually — means you’re en route to winning your primary:
— David Catanese (@davecatanese) March 23, 2022
I say “usually” because Alabama has been an outlier in the Trump endorsement sweepstakes. In 2017 he endorsed not one but two candidates who went on to lose, first backing establishmentarian Luther Strange in the GOP Senate runoff against Roy Moore and then backing Moore in his general election match-up against Doug Jones. For whatever reason, Alabama Republicans tend to go their own way in primaries.
Which brings us to today’s news. Brooks has committed a mortal sin against MAGA requiring sanction, although it’s not the one identified by Trump in this un-endorsement statement:
Tough break for "woke" Mo Brooks in the AL Senate race—Trump, as expected, announces he is "hereby withdrawing my Endorsement" pic.twitter.com/I35Cmffpzs
— Sam Brodey (@sambrodey) March 23, 2022
That’s a neat example of how willing Trump is to lie to his own fans. Brooks didn’t urge people to put the 2020 election behind them “recently.” He did it last August. Trump stuck with him for another seven months after he said it. And Brooks didn’t break with MAGA dogma at that rally by claiming that Biden had won fair and square. He told Trump and his fans what they wanted to hear, that the election had been rigged: “There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft of 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Put that behind you. Yes, look forward! Look forward! Look forward! Beat them in 2022! Beat them in 2024!”
If that makes you “woke,” every Republican running in a competitive state or district this fall and every serious Republican candidate who runs for president in 2024 will be mega-woke. As I said a few days ago, the standard reply from mainstream GOP candidates to questions about whether the election was stolen will be “2020 is the past, I’m focused on the future.” None except those running in very safe red districts will go as far as Brooks did by alleging “election theft,” fearing how swing voters will react.
Brooks’s sin in Trump’s eyes wasn’t urging Republicans to move on from 2020. His sin was demonstrating that Trump’s endorsement isn’t decisive even in a red state. Via John McCormack, this poll dropped just yesterday:
2022 AL Senate GOP Primary
Gray TV/AL Daily News Poll by Cygnal, +/-4%
Mike Durant – 34.6%
Katie Britt – 28.4%
Mo Brooks – 16.1%
Lillie Boddie – 6.5%
Karla Dupriest – 0%
Jake Schafer – 0%
Undecided – 14.4%
There’s more than just ego at stake for Trump in this year’s primaries. Stories are already being written about whether he’s losing his grip on the party. If his handpicked primary challengers perform badly this spring and summer…
Trump endorsements in competitive Senate/Gubernatorial primaries:
Brooks (withdrawn) – 3rd
Perdue – Distant 2nd
McGeachin- Distant 2nd
Schmidt- No recent polling
Laxalt- 1 or 2?
Tshibaka- Distant 2nd
Lake – 1st
— AG🌻 (@AGHamilton29) March 23, 2022
…the coverage will be brutal and the odds of a presidential primary challenge in 2024 by a formidable candidate like Ron DeSantis will rise. Trump is cutting bait on Brooks not because of his “look forward” statement but because he’s desperate to spin the humiliating fact that his endorsement in a state as conservative as Alabama has been shown (again) to be no guarantee of victory. He needed an excuse for Brooks’s poor performance that would let him save face so he went with his favorite hobbyhorse: If only Brooks had been as much of a crank obsessed with 2020 as Trump himself is, he’d be cruising to victory right now. To a vulgar narcissist, there’s no political problem that can’t be solved by acting more like him.
The reality is that Brooks is losing despite his election trutherism, just as Trump lost in 2020. And Trump can’t bear being associated with losing.
There’s still a chance that he might lose in Alabama, too. He met with Katie Britt recently and reportedly met with Mike Durant just a few days ago to figure out his new endorsement:
Per sources: DURANT met w/ TRUMP at Mar-a-Lago on Monday. =>> https://t.co/gFY1PIVUBo
— David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker) March 23, 2022
I wonder if he has the stones to support either of them, risking that the one he declines to endorse will prevail, or if he’s going to do some weak-ass bet-hedging “double endorsement” of both.
As for Brooks, he joins Jeff Sessions in the ranks of politicians from Alabama who discovered to their dismay that, for Trump, loyalty runs in one direction. Sessions at least had the excuse of not knowing how Trump operated before he backed him in 2016. Brooks should have known better. His reward for his sycophancy will be the same as Sessions’s, being driven out of public service entirely and treated as persona non grata by MAGA fans:
It's too late for Rep. Mo Brooks to try and hold onto his House seat to which he first won in 2010, after former President Donald Trump unendorsed him in the 2022 Republican Senate primary. The filing deadline was Feb. 11.
— David Mark (@DavidMarkDC) March 23, 2022
No sympathy, please. He knew darn well Trump was a snake before he brought him in.
The risk to the wider GOP in today’s news is that Republican candidates, especially ones endorsed by Trump, will now be reluctant to urge voters to move on from 2020 and to focus on the future. No one wants to be targeted for criticism from Mar-a-Lago; that can be a campaign-killer in a primary. And Trump made clear recently that relitigating 2020 ad nauseam is a priority for him this year and in 2024, something he believes has to happen to ensure that Democrats don’t “cheat” again. Any Republican pushing the “look forward” message to try to stay on the right side of swing voters is at risk of being demagogued by Trump for doing so. Good luck to them in threading the needle.
Exit question: What does Trump do if David Perdue starts to fade in the polls against Trump’s nemesis, Brian Kemp? A Kemp endorsement is out of the question, needless to say.