Meh. What would this even mean in practice? It’s like saying that the Trump Organization needs to start distancing itself from Trump.
It’s his company. It’s defined by him. What daylight can there be, realistically?
Imagine telling Mini-Me that it’s time to start distancing himself from Dr. Evil.
Besides, to the extent that “distancing” is possible, it’s already happening.
“He has to go back and become an acceptable president and then take the wood to Biden,” said a Republican ally close to the White House.
“People are even actually saying, ‘Does he want this anymore?'” the ally said of fellow Republican supporters. “‘Is he looking for an exit strategy?'”…
The source said perhaps as soon as August, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have to advise Republican Senate candidates to distance themselves from Trump if needed to win election and keep their majority…
“He knows he’s in trouble,” [another] Republican source said. “He has no message.”
Three signs that some light distancing has already begun. One: The Daily Beast reported three weeks ago, even before Trump’s polling really hit the skids, that he was starting to disappear from ads run by Senate Republicans. If his numbers don’t turn around, every Republican on the ballot this fall will be running as a de facto independent.
Two: The caucus might defy him on certain niche issues in order to virtue-signal to moderate voters. They won’t defund the wall or do anything that might really enrage the base, but it sounds like they’re prepared to pass the new defense bill that would rename Confederate-named military bases by veto-proof margins. That’s an easy branding opportunity in a low-leverage situation: “We’re not Trump.”
Three: If they’re going to break sharply with him on anything, it’ll be on handling the pandemic. That’s his and the party’s biggest liability this fall and it’s getting bigger as cases soar in the south and California. McConnell’s call for destigmatizing mask-wearing a few days ago was a stark example, one which paid off when Trump said a few encouraging words about masks yesterday. Senate Republicans will probably go their own way on that from here on out.
But even then, they have to be careful about their tone and phrasing. McConnell, for instance, didn’t criticize Trump. He merely stated his own position and allowed voters to make the contrast themselves. He’s facing an unusual problem right now that congressional leaders typically don’t worry about when election forecasts turn grim: Because the president has no loyalty to the party, he won’t hold his tongue for strategic reasons if congressional Republicans begin criticizing him to improve their own electoral chances. A president who’s a creature of the party system, like Bush, would zip his lips and let that happen for the greater good of helping Republican incumbents to keep their seats. Trump isn’t a creature of that system, though. He beat that system. And he obsesses about personal “loyalty,” which makes him unlikely to appreciate — or care about — the strategic benefit to Senate Republicans in distancing themselves aggressively from him. He will call them out if they start taking shots at him.
And if he does that, diehard MAGAites will turn on them. Senate incumbents will start shedding base voters more rapidly than they gain swing voters. So what sort of meaningful “distancing” can really be done here? If the impeachment vote were given a do-over today, with Trump’s polling in the toilet, how many more Senate Republicans do we think would vote to remove than voted to do so in February? Maybe Murkowski?
Imagine the president’s reaction to a news story next month headlined “McConnell tells Republicans to begin distancing themselves from Trump.” You can picture it vividly, right? Well, so can Mitch.
Relatedly, here’s a new Senate poll out of deep-red Montana. If the majority flips this fall, this race may be decisive:
The temptation is to blame Trump’s slide for Daines’s deficit but the president’s not far off of his 2016 pace there. He beat Hillary 56/36 four years ago. I think Daines has more of a “Bullock problem” than a “Trump problem,” as Bullock’s universally known due to his two terms as governor and is enjoying some of the higher ratings this year that other state executives have enjoyed after the rise of COVID.
But would higher presidential polling right now help Daines? Sure. Trump’s troubles this month may be the difference at the moment between a close Daines win and a close Daines loss. If the national picture deteriorates further, McConnell himself could end up in a jam in Kentucky. He’s a strong favorite there but his job approval in the state at the end of last year was 37/50. His opponent, Amy McGrath, has been showered with rage-bucks by Democratic donors dreaming of finally knocking off McConnell. Cocaine Mitch’s own job is potentially in danger if the bottom falls out. And his majority’s in danger already.
I mean, it’s not a great sign if he’s warning Schumer and the Democrats four months out from Election Day not to get rid of the filibuster once they’re in charge.
Here’s Trump yesterday with Eric Bolling getting a do-over on an important question he flubbed when Sean Hannity asked it last week, namely, what does he want to do with a second term. One of Reuters’s sources pointed to that in today’s story as something he needs to be much crisper about. He does better here than he did with Hannity, although his answer amounts to “more of the same” — more trade deals, more jobs repatriated to the U.S. (especially pharmaceutical jobs). Interestingly, nothing about immigration.
Trump when asked by Eric Bolling to outline his second term agenda: pic.twitter.com/OAB1TR284k
— Aidan McLaughlin (@aidnmclaughlin) July 1, 2020