Is Trump getting boring?

AP Photo/John Raoux

This is an underrated point by Rich Lowry. In an age when the GOP has no real agenda apart from lib-owning and therefore Republican politics is mostly entertainment for the base, it’s risky for a politician to have his act turn stale. Yammering on about “rigged elections” won’t cost Trump any votes in a GOP primary on civic grounds, e.g., that his systematic effort to destroy faith in American institutions makes him grossly unfit for leadership.


But it *might* cost him by making him boring.

Forced to choose between a younger candidate like Ron DeSantis who’s forever searching for creative news ways to own the libs and an endless rerun of the “stop the steal” episode of The Trump Show, how many Republicans in 2024 might opt for the less boring option?

That’s part of why Trump stood out from a crowded field of heavy hitters in 2016, right? Whatever else he was, he was never boring. It made him a natural fit for an unserious country eager to be entertained by its politics at whatever civic cost.

But if he spends the next 18 months droning on about the 2020 election, asks Lowry, how many Republican voters will decide to change the channel?

The Donald Trump who never relinquished the mic after his famous descent down the elevator and shocked and outraged his way through four transfixing years as president of the United States has become a known commodity, indeed predictable and even monotonous…

[H]e can become boring, which will put at risk one of the pillars of his appeal as the most wildly entertaining, madcap national political figure of our lifetimes…

The rallies, once an innovation and still his campaign signature, long ago fell into a groove of familiarity — the stilted reading of scripted remarks off the teleprompter, interrupted by spontaneous riffs and ridicule of his enemies…

The candidate who brought relatively neglected issues that mattered to the average voter into the center of the political discussion in 2016, from immigration and trade to opioids, is now largely telling voters about the slights and ill treatment that matter to him in 2022.


Even the targets of the insults at his rallies have grown familiar, Lowry points out. How many times can you listen to him gripe about Adam Schiff or Chris Wallace before wondering what’s on Netflix?

ABC flags a notable yet overlooked detail from his recent primary travails. Despite Trump egging on his candidates to cry fraud, first in Pennsylvania with Mehmet Oz and later in Georgia with David Perdue, no one is following his lead. Oz ignored Trump’s advice to declare victory prematurely and Perdue quietly conceded his (landslide) defeat to Kemp. Surprisingly, even Jody Hice bit the bullet and conceded to Brad Raffensperger despite Raffensperger having owed some of his margin to Democratic crossover votes.

Why is that? Why have even Trumpy Republicans declined to scream about election-rigging to explain their defeats?

It’s a combination of things, I’d guess, starting with the fact that none of the losing candidates in these races have anywhere near the influence over the party that Trump does. If he tries to delegitimize someone who’s gotten the better of him, there’s no way to punish him for it. But if Oz or Perdue or Hice do it, they can be frozen out by their state parties — especially since Trump is likely to lose interest in them now that they’ve served their purposes for him. Perdue and Hice are also longtime Republicans who may feel a partisan duty not to delegitimize the GOP nominee for fear of Democrats capitalizing on that division in the fall. Whereas Trump cares only about himself, not the party, and therefore feels no similar compunction.


But I’d guess there’s also a “boy who cried wolf” aspect to this that’s deterring them. The sheer monotony of Trump harping on election conspiracies day after day for 18 months may have inured Republican voters to it, especially in the context of a party primary where the evil Democrats aren’t the ones benefiting from the alleged rigging. Trump’s complaints are little more than political background noise now; similar complaints from Perdue or Hice would probably be tuned out entirely.

And although they’d never admit it, after 18 months of recounts and state audits and forensic analyses that failed to prove fraud, maybe they’re quietly embarrassed that Trump continues to obsess about it and don’t want to associate themselves with it. Virtually every Republican primary candidate in America pays lip service to “questions” about the 2020 vote and demands “election integrity” but I’d guess maybe one percent of them are “stop the steal” true believers. The pandering about fraud has to do with signaling populist authenticity to Trump voters, not earnestly trying to solve the “mystery” of what happened to Trump’s victory. It’s a litmus test to show you’re “one of us,” little more. And now that Perdue and Hice have lost and their careers are over, what do they gain by continuing to focus on that litmus test in the aftermath?


Bill Barr has his own theory of why Trump’s shtick has gotten stale. Republican voters want to win badly in 2024 and his preoccupation is increasingly a mismatch for that goal:

“I’m all for restoring America . That’s what I’m all about, is restoring the greatness of this country. And the principle threat is this progressive agenda. The only way to do that is not to speak about some other election and continue this trench warfare but instead a breakthrough election that will create and usher in an era just like Reagan did,” said Barr in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

“I don’t necessarily want to take a shot at Trump, but Trump is not that man,” he said, adding that the former president would be a 78-year-old lame duck the day he walked into office…

“However, if you believe in the MAGA agenda, we’ve already punched the other guy in the nose. Now, how do we actually go about methodically restoring the United States?” Barr said. The first thing Republicans need to do, added Barr, is win a decisive, broad victory. “And you don’t do that by starting a civil war in the party and calling everyone who doesn’t believe that the election was stolen a RINO.”

“Electing me again would make Democrats cry like they’ve never cried before” isn’t a bad pitch to a base that cares only about owning the libs. But Barr’s right that there’s no scenario in which a figure as widely loathed as Trump wins a “decisive, broad victory.” I doubt there’s a scenario in which he wins the popular vote. A redux of 2016, in which he wins narrowly in all the key swing states, is his best possible outcome. And that would mean that three of the last four presidential elections won by a Republican candidate would have seen him receive fewer votes than his Democratic nominee.


I think Barr has a different potential nominee in mind. See this guy here? He’s almost certainly running in 2024.

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