Can you tell President Trump is jacked over the GOP primary election results in the Florida governor’s race?
Traditional presidential political behavior holds that presidents do not involve themselves publicly in their party’s primary contests. Perhaps you’ve noticed Trump does not behave like a traditional president.
The man who used to call himself a non-politician has been most active endorsing in congressional primaries this cycle, where he’s built a fairly impressive record of success picking winners, even if some support came at the last minute. For instance, against staff advice, Trump endorsed Kris Kobach the day before the Kansas primary over the incumbent GOP governor. And Kobach won narrowly.
In Florida, Rep. Ron DeSantis was trailing Adam Putnam, state agriculture commissioner, in the primary race to succeed term-limited Rick Scott. Then, Trump endorsed DeSantis. Then, DeSantis pulled ahead. Then, DeSantis defeated Putnam.
Then, wisely, DeSantis heaped voluminous appreciation and praise on this president.
Then, came Trump’s effusive tweet early Wednesday morning. There’s no doubt Trump will get involved helping DeSantis before Nov. 6.
The president has decided to be involved in many races this fall. He’s set aside 40 days for campaigning, a number likely to grow as races heat up and private polls determine where help is most critical.
Today, Trump will campaign in Evansville, Indiana to help the GOP’s Mike Braun take back the Senate seat now held by Democrat Joe Donnelly. Next Thursday, the president will hold a rally in Billings, Montana for State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who’s trying to retake the old Conrad Burns Senate seat, now held by Democrat Jon Tester.
Montana went for Trump by 20 points in 2016. But with its puny three electoral votes, the fourth largest state rarely sees presidents, let alone the same one three times in one year.
But that’s an indication of Trump’s commitment to enlarge the GOP’s one-seat Senate majority and perhaps minimize the historical House losses a president’s party usually suffers. (And, let’s be honest, Trump remains steamed at Tester for releasing those unverified allegations that killed Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Veterans Affairs.)
As for Florida, Trump won there too, more narrowly. It’s an important state, the fourth most populous, and Trump has a hotel home there. Of course, where doesn’t Trump have a hotel home?
There’s political risk to Trump involving himself in a fair number of races. If his favorites lose and Democrats win big in the midterms, then the president looks even weaker.
There’s also danger too in general elections. It’s one thing for a Republican president to get involved in primaries for Republicans. After, all it’s family. And Trump holds a 90 percent approval rating among his party’s members.
But it’s quite another for a Republican president to get involved with Republicans in a general election where his national job approval remains about 10 points beneath his disapproval. In Florida, Trump would likely go to help DeSantis in more conservative areas that already like the president, like the Panhandle with its many military bases and voters.
A president’s arrival in town can help with that base. But be careful. It can also remind opponents why they’re motivated to vote against his favorite.