Trump has comeback plans. He's doing it amid mockery from his own side
They brand him a loser, as he hints campaign launch days away
Donald Trump's own-party rivals have tossed every rebuke imaginable at him and it's never stuck: Crazy, a kook, a race-baiting bigot, a Russian plant, a narcissist, amoral, a pathological liar, a threat to the republic.
It's never made a dent.
Republican rank-and-file voters have continued to adore him, attend his rallies and punish the few apostates within the party who dare to deride him.
He'd still easily be the front-runner for the next Republican presidential nomination if he announced his candidacy next week, as he's hinting he will at an event Nov. 15.
And yet his heretofore hapless Republican critics are testing out a new attack.
It's perhaps the most dreaded word in Trump's vocabulary; a 5-letter calumny aimed at convincing fellow Republicans that now, finally, is the time to walk away: L-O-S-E-R.
It's suddenly spreading on the right, the idea that Trump's gravest sin — the reason to finally dump him — is not his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot or any of the other stuff he's done, but a more practical reason: According to them, he makes Republicans lose elections.
After winning the White House in 2016, he oversaw a loss in the House of Representatives in 2018, lost the White House in 2020, the Senate in 2021 — and candidates he supported in this week's midterms fared poorly.
Wall Street Journal: He's a loser
The L-word attack has been prominent throughout the media properties owned by Fox News magnate Rupert Murdoch, including on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which usually (though not always) staunchly defended Trump, including during past investigations.
This is a rather stark pivot <a href="https://t.co/p1fJVzFDhu">pic.twitter.com/p1fJVzFDhu</a>—@maggieNYT
Its editorial headline on Wednesday was: "Trump Is the Republican Party's Biggest Loser."
This was a day after a disappointingly close midterm election for the Republican Party where Trump's allies struggled.
Case in point: Georgia. Trump's chosen candidate, Herschel Walker, was forced into a run-off.
It was similar in New Hampshire where a Trump-style populist lost a Senate race while the more standard-issue Republican governor was re-elected by 16 points.
The Journal went through several examples around the country.
"Trumpy Republican candidates failed at the ballot box in states that were clearly winnable," said the paper.
"Mr. Trump has botched the 2022 elections, and it could hand Democrats the Senate for two more years. Mr. Trump had policy successes as president, including tax cuts and deregulation, but he has led Republicans into one political fiasco after another.… Maybe by now Republicans are sick and tired of losing."
Lest the point be lost on anyone, Murdoch's New York tabloid — Trump's favourite newspaper — illustrated it in a front-page drawing.
The New York Post ridiculed the former president by calling him the "Trumpty Dumpty" who couldn't build a wall, had a great fall, and left others to put a broken party back together again.
'I could not support him'
The lieutenant-governor of Virginia and the chair of the 2020 campaign, Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump, was another voice saying it's time to move on from him.
Winsome Sears said if Trump runs for the Republican nomination, she won't back him again.
"I could not support him [for 2024]," Sears told Fox Business. "I just couldn't.… A true leader understands when they have become a liability. A true leader understands it's time to step off the stage, and voters have given us that very clear message."
Meanwhile, Georgia's lieutenant-governor, Geoff Duncan — a persistent Trump critic who has called him unfit for office — told CNN as the disheartening midterm results rolled in: "This is truly a pivot point for the Republican Party. This is a time that Donald Trump is no doubt in the rear-view mirror."
And Trump's own former spokesperson is urging him to keep a low profile for a while.
Welp!<br><br>VA Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, who was the national chair of Black Americans to Re-elect the President in 2020, says "I could not support" Trump if he decides to run for president in 2024. <br><br>"We have a clear mission, and it is time to move on." <a href="https://t.co/q9vUqUGbHA">pic.twitter.com/q9vUqUGbHA</a>—@justinbaragona
Kayleigh McEnany urged her former boss to delay his presidential campaign announcement for a few weeks. Why? To avoid the possibility of causing Republicans to lose the upcoming run-off race in Georgia that could decide who controls the Senate.
"I know there's a temptation to start talking about 2024. No, no, no, no, no. 2022 is not over," McEnany said on Fox News. "I think he needs to put it on pause."
Trump sounded late Thursday like he was brushing aside that advice. He emailed supporters to confirm he'll make a special announcement at his Mar-a-Lago residence next week, after previously dropping hints he intends to announce another presidential run next Tuesday.
To be clear, there's no evidence yet that Trump is in imminent danger of being dislodged if he seeks the 2024 presidential nomination.
His allies will argue that he turned out record numbers of Republican voters (while also turning out record numbers of Democrats). Trump supporters also demonstrated their commitment to him just this year: They drove almost every lawmaker who voted to impeach him out of office.
It also looks like Republicans may have won the popular vote in this year's midterms.
Also, in a hypothetical 2024 primary matchup, he's still easily No. 1 in the polls, more than 20 points ahead, according to one recent survey, of his closest Republican rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But that gap has narrowed a bit recently. Some surveys show DeSantis more competitive against Trump on a state-by-state level. And DeSantis is just coming off a staggeringly large win in the Florida gubernatorial race, finishing nearly 20 points ahead of his Democratic rival.
On his own social media site, Truth Social, Trump blasted his critics in a string of posts: On the New York Post headline, he said other Republicans in Congress failed to deliver the wall with Mexico, not him; he said Fox owes its success to him; he spread conspiracy theories about the just-completed election; and he mocked DeSantis.
Suddenly, the New York Post is running flattering pictures, referring to him as "DeFUTURE," along with headlines like, "DeSantis shows he's future of the GOP," and "DeSantis' not-so-secret political weapon — his wife, Casey," and an editorial headlined: "Run, Ron, run! DeSantis leads a strong GOP bench for 2024."
Will this stick? Watch these clues
We'll soon know if this is anything more than doomed chatter; fresh polling after the midterms may better reveal if there's any weakness for Trump.
But there's another clue, too.
We'll know Trump has real troubles if his Praetorian Guard of media commentators turn on him: the Fox News prime-time TV hosts, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
They haven't yet.
Carlson, who tends to be a less-consistent Trump booster than Hannity, played both sides of the divide in his post-midterm analysis. He neither blamed, nor absolved, Trump for the disappointing result, calling it was more complicated than that.
"The truth is, Trump has always been a mixed blessing politically," Carlson said.
"The downsides are marbled in with the upsides. But in this case, he's certainly not the single cause of anything. Republicans … suffered a fair amount of down-ballot losses in races that had nothing to do with Trump, in Michigan, for example. Whether you like Trump or not — and many don't and a lot do — it's a lot more complicated than just him."
We'll have a better sense soon as the post-midterm dust settles. In the meantime, Trump suddenly feels less inevitable as a 2024 presidential nominee than just a few days ago.