Thursday, March 14, 2024

March 13, 2024
Is Trump fading?  (episode four)

I have suggested several times[1] that Trump’s appeal to voters might be fading.  I may  have been too optimistic; he has won most of the primary contests and his opponents have dropped out.. However, his legal troubles, while they may establish him as a martyr to some, should be a net negative.

The stunning verdicts in the E. Jean Carroll cases, finding “sexual abuse” and defamation[2], (and awarding huge damages)[3] should give any supporter pause.  In addition he faces serious criminal charges.

Also, Trump’s apparent popularity may be in part illusory.  He had little positive influence on the 2022 midterm election and observers have pointed out that Trump’s vote totals in the early primaries were not impressive and that not all Republican voters are ready to support him.[4]

Trump has shown lapses that may raise concerns about his mental ability.  He attacked Nancy Pelosi for an imagined failure on January 6, but referred to her repeatedly as “Nikki Haley.” Often he seems confused, making mistakes.[5]   Niece Mary Trump pointed to this gaffe by Trump at a Fox News town hall: ’”Were going to take over Washington, D.C. We’re going to federalize. We’re going to have very powerful crime, and you’re going to be proud of it again,”[6]

Unfortunately. President Biden has shown lapses as well, and his seem to show declining mental acuity, whereas Trump’s are buried in shouted blather, so he can seem strong even while revealing confusion. The special counsel’s comment on Biden’s memory has made matters still worse.  Biden’s performance at the State of the Union address should help to dispel fears: he fumbled at times but gave a vigorous, combative speech.  On policy, he took the initiative on the border issue and proposed a project to get more aid to Gaza.  He should go farther and take a harder line with Israel on its attacks

Trump at times seems to be self-destructive. After winning the New Hampshire primary, instead of trying to maintain Party solidarity, he attacked Governor Haley.  Driving away potential Republican voters doesn’t seem bright, but Trump did that while showing a vindictive streak, referring to  “Birdbrain” Nikki Haley and threatening her supporters: “Anybody that makes a ‘Contribution’ to Birdbrain, from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp. We don’t want them, and will not accept them.”[7]

Haley returned the favor, exposing Trump’s weakness while again potentially driving away Republican votes.  One of her ads said, of Trump, “He just can’t help himself, the ranting and raving. . . .  Chaos follows him, and he’s getting older.”  Trump is only “running to settle old scores” because “it’s about him, not you,” the voter.[8]  She referred to him as “unhinged.”[9]

Another Haley ad raised the issue of Trump’s deference to Putin.  “Every time he was in the same room with him, he got weak in the knees,” Haley told a Fox News town hall in South Carolina. “We can’t have a president that gets weak in the knees with Putin. We have to have a president that’s going to be strong with Putin in every sense of the word.”[10]

Trump has underscored the issue of weakness toward Russia by suggesting that he would encourage it to attack a NATO member. He recently recalled (or imagined) a conversation during his presidency.  Referring to financial contributions toward military preparedness by NATO members, he said:
    One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, “Well sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?” I said, “You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?” He said, “Yes, let’s say that happened.” “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”[11] .   

All of this may persuade enough voters that Trump is a risky bet.  As Jennifer
Rubin put it, past presidential candidates “did not have the extra hurdle to prove they were sane, law-abiding and pro-democracy. Trump does, and he reinforces those concerns whenever he opens his mouth.”[12]

In addition to Trump’s weaknesses, the GOP is in disarray, as demonstrated by the antics, divisions and general uselessness of the House Republicans; that may drag its presidential candidate down.  Goaded by Trump, who wants border troubles as a campaign issue, they have lost interest in border enforcement after claiming that action there was critical.  Those voters who backed Trump because he vowed to close the border should be offended by his maneuvering to keep it open so he can complain about it.  

 Trunp’s cruise to the nomination is not necessarily bad news; in the two previous campaigns he lost the popular vote. Despite all of Biden’s troubles, including too-critical news media, I think (hope?) that voters will see that they must back him. As Robert Reich put it,  "When Americans actually focus on the presidential election and the stark reality of choosing between Biden and Trump, I expect they will once again choose Biden.”[13]

1.  See notes of 1/26/22, 11/26/22, 8/20/23
3. verdict.html
4. email&utm_campaign=Feb.26.2024_1.59pm
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12. newsletter
13. medium=email&utm_campaign=Jan.23.2024_1.57pm
Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day