Suppose one candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from a red state has the backing of Karl Rove and traditional Republican Party officials. He is for all the key stuff – Second Amendment, anti-abortion, anti-regulation, low taxes. But he is no radical, he’s “low-energy,” in the parlance of President Trump, and he’s had a messy affair that went public and a minor scandal involving him backing off prosecution of a popular Republican governor.
The other also is right on the big issues, but he boldly asserts his devotion to Christian family values and is a hero of evangelical Christians because he asserts American law is based on the Judeo-Christian law as outlined in the Bible. And the only scandals he’s ever known were being kicked off his state’s highest court for refusing to remove two separate monuments of the Ten Commandments he commissioned from its courtroom — first a wooden plaque, then a 5,280-pound granite slab.
Which candidate do you think President Trump would support? Not with perfunctory tweets and a half-hearted appearance or two … but really get behind with time, money and effort? The second one, right?
Not according to E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post.
“In Alabama’s Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, Steve Bannon defeated Donald Trump,” Dionne wrote. As a result, “right-wing insurgents were given a license to challenge Republican incumbents all over the country in 2018.”
Trump endorsed Luther Strange, the establishment candidate, who lost to Roy Moore 55-45 in the battle to take on Democrat Doug Jones in a December general election that is widely expected to go to the Republican candidate.
Trump supported Strange sporadically with tweets and stumped for Strange in the state twice. Strange was appointed to the Senate to take Jeff Sessions’ place when Sessions became Attorney General.
But as Michael Steele, the Marylander who used to run the Republican Party, told the Post, “Trump was never fully behind Strange to begin with. The party coaxed and cajoled him to get on the Strange train, and he did. …. Voters in Alabama knew the whole endorsement for Strange was a wink and a nod. They got that Moore was a Trump guy.”
The day after the election, the president tweeted he had talked to Moore for the first time, congratulated on his victory and determined him to be a “good guy” and worthy of support.
Which should not be surprising since there is considerable evidence Trump got exactly what he wanted Tuesday, and it comes from the mainstream media itself.
The Washington Post headlined one sidebar story, “Trumpism beats Trump’s Ala. Pick,” as if the president should be upset the political movement he founded beat an establishment candidate with a 10-1 funding advantage.
The New York Times predicted somberly the victory for Bannon’s candidate over Trump’s had “ushered in a season of savage nomination fights and activist-led attacks on party leaders, especially on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky …”
But ushering in a season of savage nomination fights between Trump-inspired upstarts and establishment officeholders who have failed to repeal Obamacare, reduce taxes or otherwise act on the agenda does not anger the president. Neither do the attacks on Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader who provided a lot of Strange’s money but does not produce when important legislative matters are at hand.
The media thinks Trump should want to help GOP establishment politicians win in 2018 to retain control of Congress. What President Trump wants is a Congress led by people who share his enthusiasm for pro-growth government, repealing Obamacare and draining the swamp.
He wants candidates like Moore to win. He wants primary fights against moderates, as Steve Bannon has promised in Arizona, Mississippi and Nevada. He liked that Moore said McConnell had to go and that the loss can be pinned on McConnell at least as much as him.
The mainstream media treats this as the implosion of Trumpism it has so fervently hoped for. But Bannon traveled the state telling voters a vote for Moore was a vote for Trump and the Republican Party. A strategy memo from the Senate Leadership Fund – the McConnell-directed PAC that spent $9 million for Strange – said, “Support for President Trump directly correlates with likelihood to vote.”
“His political vitality within his party – counted upon by Republicans who fear primary challenges in next year’s mid-term elections – suddenly stands in question,” wrote the Post because he Trump’s half-hearted support of Strange did not lift him over the finish line.
The election in Alabama absolutely demonstrated the president’s political vitality, and moderate Republicans are right to be worried about. But not in the way the mainstream media suggests.