Oh, grow up. Not even Republicans believe this would offend POTUS. (VPOTUS, on the other hand…) His position on gay marriage was ably summarized by Ramesh Ponnuru a week ago: He consistently says he’s against it but he’s also consistently signaled that he doesn’t much care. Which, I think, actually makes him a good representative of general Republican opinion on gay marriage right now. Most are still against it but few seem to get exercised about it anymore.
Asked about the topic in June 2015, Trump told Jake Tapper he was for “traditional marriage.” A few weeks later, after the Supreme Court held that all states had to recognize same-sex marriage, Trump told Howard Kurtz he would have preferred for the Court to have left states to make their own decisions but suggested that overturning the ruling was not a priority. He told The Hollywood Reporter it was a “dead issue.” But in January 2016, before the Iowa caucuses, he told Chris Wallace that he would “strongly consider” appointing justices who would overturn the ruling.
After winning the November 2016 election he said that whether he supported or opposed same-sex marriage was “irrelevant” because the Supreme Court had made its ruling, adding, “I’m fine with that.”
Even the left rarely accuses Trump of having heartfelt socially conservative views. When they ding him for supporting socially conservative policies the criticism is always framed in terms of political expedience, as him pandering to his evangelical base, rather than him being a “values” warrior in his core. How could it be otherwise? The idea of Trump being a “prude” of any sort, which is what this ad seems to imply, is farcical. There *are* “values” crusades that Trump will take up enthusiastically but they’re all of a nationalist variety, like his battle with the NFL over standing for the anthem. It’s silly to think he’d recoil from this. Remember, notes Ben Shapiro, this is a guy who held up a rainbow flag at one of his final rallies in 2016.
But all of that is beside the point. Strategically this spot is of a piece with the ad being run across the border in Virginia by Democrat Dan Helmer calling Trump the biggest threat to the country since Osama Bin Laden. Different candidate here, totally different approach, but the political circumstances are the same: Like Helmer, Rich Madaleno is stuck in a crowded Democratic primary and struggling to gain traction. The most recent poll had him way back in fourth place at six percent with former NAACP chief Benjamin Jealous ahead at 21. But the odds are even longer for Madaleno than they appear. Although Maryland is a blue state, it has a phenomenally popular Republican governor in Larry Hogan, who currently enjoys a 71 percent(!!) approval rating. Even if Madaleno were to get out of the primary, he’s probably a sitting duck in the general.
But first things first: How do you grab the attention of Dem voters when you’re sitting at six percent? You run a gimmicky ad like this one calling Trump out by name — and you air it on Fox News during “Fox & Friends” in the D.C. market, hoping/expecting that Trump will see it. That is to say, as with Helmer, this is Madaleno’s attempt to taunt Trump into responding to him on Twitter, knowing that earning the public enmity of the president would give him instant cred and name recognition among local Democrats. It was a long shot but one worth taking. If it worked he was golden, if it didn’t work (and it hasn’t) at least he did something showy to get his name out there and to brand himself ostentatiously anti-Trump before Maryland Dems go to vote. When you’re at six percent, you’ll try anything.