GoLocalProv | Trump Redux – Horowitz

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

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Former President Donald Trump PHOTO: White House

In the early years of Donald Trump’s reality show The Apprentice garnered high ratings. However, once the novelty wore off, the ratings dropped precipitously. When Donald Trump completed his final season of The Apprentice reboot, Celebrity Apprentice in 2015, he had one of the smallest audiences of any show on network television.

Up to this point. Donald Trump’s fledgling campaign to recapture the presidency in 2024 has a belated celebrity trainee feel to it or with apologies to “The King,” a belated Elvis feel. The rallies he held this fall in the lead up to his announcement last Tuesday did not generate the same excitement that they used to generate among the Trump faithful. Just like you can only say “You’re fired” on TV to a B-level celebrity so many times before people change the channel, leading people in chants of ‘Lock her up,’ but unintelligently substituting for Nancy Pelosi by Hillary Clinton. It only goes so far.

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Many observers criticized the ad itself as “low-energy,” a deliberate echo of the former president’s famous criticism of Jeb Bush in the 2016 campaign. More importantly, Trump had little or nothing new to say. As he was unable to do in his losing 2020 election campaign, Trump did not present new ideas or new proposals that would provide voters with a compelling justification for his candidacy, one that goes beyond ego gratification or avoiding impeachment. In fact, according to several Trump insiders, the timing of his declaration of candidacy was more a function of his belief that his legal strategy would be fueled by being an active candidate than any smart and strategic political calculation.

Indeed, announcing several weeks before the Georgia runoff on December 6, when Republican elected officials pleaded with the former president to wait, believing it would hurt Hershel Walker’s chances, defies political logic. Trump is already taking most of the blame in Republican circles for his historically poor performance in the medium term. With Walker, another troubled candidate chosen by Trump, more likely to lose on December 6, the former president has positioned himself for additional blame. As Chris Christie told the Republican Jewish Coalition this week: “We keep losing and losing and losing. And the fact is, the reason we’re losing is because Donald Trump has put himself before everyone else.” This view of Trump, whose self-centered actions and unpopularity have now contributed enormously to Republicans losing the 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022 elections, is becoming dominant among other Republican politicians and big donors.

Even as a legal ploy, Trump’s announcement turned out to be of limited value. Two days after the former president’s candidacy declaration, Attorney General Garland unveiled his decision to appoint special counsel to oversee federal criminal investigations of which Donald Trump is at least a subject, showing that the new presidential campaign of Mr. Trump would not serve as an impediment for the Justice Department to take action. The selection of Jack Smith by the attorney general, a highly respected career prosecutor with a reputation for moving quickly on cases, does not bode well for Trump.

While Trump’s 2024 campaign is off to a rocky start, it would be too early to write it off. He retains the strong support of at least 1 in 3 Republican primary voters and is still viewed favorably by a substantial majority of Republicans. In what is shaping up to be a field of multiple candidates, this may still be a winning hand for the nomination. Beating Trump will likely require the emergence of a dominant challenger who can clear out most of the rest of the field before too many primary races are completed.

If Mr. Trump manages to capture the nomination, he will very likely be the easiest candidate for the Democrats to defeat. Only 39% of midterm voters have a favorable opinion of the former president, while 58% have an unfavorable opinion. The emergence of more damaging disclosures as a result of federal and state investigations is certain, and the possibility that at least one of the investigations will result in an indictment is likely. There will be a sense among Trump supporters, no matter how persuasive the evidence, that he is being treated unfairly. For swing, moderate, and independent voters, Mr. Trump needs to win a general election, however, more emerging information about Jan. 6 or his mishandling of classified documents and/or an impeachment will only harden their opposition to his candidacy.

From a purely partisan Democratic standpoint, another Trump general election bid is a dream come true. He is the gift that he continues to give to the Democratic Party.

However, he is too great a threat to our democracy to want that outcome. His campaign, even if he is likely to lose, will continue to inject too much additional poison and toxicity into our politics. Also, there is always the possibility that he could regain the presidency; it is hard to imagine a worse development for our nation.

As a result, I will wait for the unlikely possibility that Trump will meet such fierce resistance from a critical mass of Republicans that he will drop his candidacy. Other than that, I will support some other Republican presidential candidate to beat him for the nomination, no matter how hard it is to beat that candidate in the general election.

Rob Horowitz is a communications and strategic consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail and survey services to national and state organizations, various non-profit organizations, businesses, and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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