Trump: My opponents play the race card when they're losing

Welcome to the conservative world, Donald Trump. In an exclusive White House interview with Fox & Friends, the new president makes a very old complaint about Democratic opposition, which is that they make a habit of hurling charges of racism at Republicans when they’re losing. Wait until Trump’s around when they’re winning. Boy, is he in for a surprise:

Race card, gender card, fascism card … they’ve got them all, and they’ll play them all, too. Unfortunately, as Democrats still don’t appear to have learned, those cards tend to lose their value with overuse. They counted on those kinds of crass demographic arguments to save them in the past few elections, and wound up in the worst position their party has had since the 1920s — not just in Congress, but in state legislatures as well. They’re working on perpetuating that trend by naming Tom Perez the new DNC chair and Keith Ellison as his deputy, too.

Still, Trump claims more success in demographics than he earned. The measure of that is the exit polling from the election, where he did do better among Hispanics and African-Americans than critics predicted. However, that consisted of matching Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012, with 28% and 8% respectively against Romney’s 27% and 7%. John McCain did slightly better with Hispanic voters in 2008 (31%), and George W. Bush did better with both groups in 2004 (44% and 11% respectively).

If Trump wants to win a second term, he’ll need to move those numbers up significantly, unless Democrats are crazy enough to nominate Hillary Clinton again. He can do that by sticking to his agenda and creating an economic boom that brings jobs back in the Rust Belt, but he’ll need better messaging along the way along with his policies. Trump recognizes that, too. In the interview, he told the Fox & Friends hosts that while his policies and actions should get an A, messaging only gets a “C or C+” on his own report card:

“I think in terms of effort, which means something, but I give myself an A+, okay? Effort. But that’s, you know, results are more important. In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C+,” Trump told Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” in an interview that was taped Monday afternoon and aired Tuesday morning. …

“In terms of achievement, I think I’d give myself an A. Because I think I’ve done great things,” Trump said. “I and my people, I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public. I think I get an A in terms of what I’ve actually done, but in terms of messaging, I’d give myself a C or a C+.”

Given the new president’s legendary ego, that’s a stunningly realistic assessment of the first few weeks. So what will be done about it? The White House hired Michael Dubke as its comms director to exert more discipline on messaging. Dubke likes to keep a low profile, but if things don’t improve on that report card, he might have to come into the limelight a little to set the tone.

Interestingly, Trump did criticize the face of his public messaging, Sean Spicer, for the way he conducted a mole hunt:

It’s a pretty mild rebuke, and Trump couches it in an endorsement of Spicer, but this was part of the undisciplined messaging that has distracted from Trump’s actions. CNN reported this morning that Trump signed off on Spicer’s plan to check the phones, which Spicer denied, but that doesn’t actually contradict Trump in this case either. He may or may not have signed off on the phone inspections, but that doesn’t negate Trump’s advice ex post facto to conduct those meetings and inspections individually.

Trump will get a chance to refocus on the agenda and his actions tonight on his non-SOTU speech to the joint session tonight, but manages to distract from that by noting that there are people leaking from “other governments,” ie, the Obama administration holdovers still in their old jobs.To the extent that holdovers are interfering with messaging, though, that’s also on Trump. Those people should have been cleared out by now, either replaced with Trump hires or those jobs eliminated altogether.

On the whole, though, the kind of dissatisfaction Trump admits with messaging might prompt more changes in the short run, at least with an executive as eager to terminate over performance issues as Trump positions himself to be. This sounds like a warning signal to his team that the boss ain’t happy with the political side of the White House. And if the boss ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.