Give Donald Trump credit for being right … for a while, anyway, before being wrong twice. Trump ended up jumping onto the Roy Moore bandwagon when Moore beat Trump’s preferred candidate Luther Strange, and again when Trump decided that multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were “fake news.” But prior to that, Trump had endorsed Strange over Moore largely over electability concerns, which Trump points out this morning:
“The deck” in this case was Roy Moore himself. He didn’t lose by much, and the Washington Post exposé of his alleged predatory behavior was clearly the main factor behind the loss. However, Moore’s campaign kept shooting itself in the foot even apart from the scandal. Their media surrogates ineptly created controversies where unnecessary, such as Janet Porter’s interview with now-pregnant Poppy Harlow in which she warned the CNN host that Doug Jones wanted to abort her baby.
Another example came yesterday as polls were still open. Jake Tapper interviewed Ted Crockett, who defended Moore’s earlier contention that Muslims should be barred from office — an assertion from which Moore had retreated. Crockett argues that one has to be able to swear on a Bible to take an oath of office, and literally sat slack-jawed when Tapper explained that one can choose a preferred religious text for the oath:
Video: The end of this @JakeTapper-Moore Campaign spox interview featured the claim that Moore still believes homosexuality is a sin and didn't know you could be sworn in on something other than a Bible. Unreal #ALSen pic.twitter.com/3XwBYw7pG4
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) December 12, 2017
In fact, one does not even need to take an oath on a religious text at all. Some people by the nature of their faith are barred from offering oaths and can choose to “affirm” instead. That provision explicitly exists in the Constitution for the president in Article II, Section 1. The use of a Bible is tradition, not requirement. (The Constitution also bars religious tests for office, which both Moore and his spokesman overlooked.)
One might have thought that an official campaign surrogate would have read the Constitution once or twice in his lifetime before taking up this job. Crockett and Porter demonstrate the quality of the campaign, which was incompetent enough to leave open the question of whether Moore might have been able to win even with the scandal had he surrounded himself with better people.
Trump offered a fairly gracious welcome to Jones, or at least what passes for one these days:
But make no mistake about it — Trump does not like to lose, and he especially detests being blamed for it. The people who pushed him into that position worry they will pay for it, NBC reports this morning, and the White House is already bracing for the storm to come:
Another White House official acknowledged the obvious — that the apparent win by Jones, a Democrat, is “not good” — but said the lesson is that candidates matter. Republicans can’t just ride the anti-establishment sentiment to victory no matter what, this person argued, noting the need for “quality candidates.”
Some allies of Trump are now grumbling more loudly about political director Bill Stepien’s future, with one person close to the president describing the political operation as a “disaster” and blaming a lack of leadership.
That, coupled with the Democratic wins in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey last month, has raised concerns — with another source close to the administration suggesting the political director and team should be “hanging their head once again.”
One source told NBC that Trump took the loss in stride, however:
One official told NBC News that Trump isn’t blaming anyone for what happened Tuesday night — including Steve Bannon, who campaigned aggressively for Moore — but says the situation with Moore, who faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, which he denied, simply became “untenable.” The official added that the president feels disappointed the seat won’t go to a Republican, but also feels a sense of relief that the campaign is over.
If Trump lets this slide, it would be the first time that’s happened. Trump will come under withering criticism for his waffling on Moore in the general election, and his tweet this morning is a clear sign that he wants to pre-empt that criticism. The more criticism he gets, the more Trump will want to distance himself from it by laying it off on others. And Bannon is the perfect scapegoat for it: he’s out of the White House already, and he’s actually responsible for Moore’s primary win against Trump’s endorsed candidate.