There have been many consequences — both good and bad — of Trump’s rise, but among the worst is the effect it has had on the quality of the GOP’s down-ballot candidates. His triumph over more articulate, experienced, and competent candidates such as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush sent the exact wrong message to people considering running for office as Republicans around the country. That is: Good character is a liability, not an asset, in GOP primaries.
There’s little doubt in my mind that Donald Trump’s personality appealed to a certain segment of voters who relished his disregard for niceties and viewed him as the kind of blunt weapon they would love to see wielded against their political opponents. Unfortunately, after he pulled off an upset of Hillary Clinton in the general election, a popular myth grew into existence. Only Donald Trump — with his indomitable energy and willingness to say or do anything — could have won in 2016. Once he held power, it became more professionally convenient and profitable to espouse this view than to recognize that he was running against the most unpopular major-party candidate aside from himself in decades, as well as that the Democrats were at a disadvantage after having held the White House for eight years.
If Trump wins in November, the myth will be hardened. But if he loses — and particularly if he loses big (he’s down ten points in the RealClearPolitics national average as of Tuesday morning) — Republicans should expect it to be shattered somewhat.