Donald Trump could probably still shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and keep his base but not because they love him—it’s because they want to shoot someone. That prospect, which is apparently dawning on Trump, has got him a little down in the mouth since he backed the loser in Alabama’s Senate contest. Washington Post‘s Robert Costa writes:
As he headed to Huntsville, Ala., in a last-ditch effort to lift the floundering campaign of Sen. Luther Strange, President Trump was fuming — feeling dragged along by GOP senators who had pleaded with him to go and increasingly unenthusiastic about Strange, whom he described to aides as loyal but “low energy.”
His agitation only worsened on the flight back last Friday. Trump bemoaned the headlines he expected to see once Strange was defeated — that he had stumbled and lost his grip on “my people,” as he calls his core voters.
Strange’s loss Tuesday is a bigger problem for Trump than just one lost race. It means his “people” aren’t really his people. They’re just ticked off and Trump is their avatar of anger. Their loyalty isn’t to him, it’s to unleashing their wrath on the political class, the nation, and anything else they think has wronged them. And he’s replaceable when something better—or should we say, more rancid—comes along.
What this means is that the biggest leverage point he had against GOP lawmakers who distrust him has gone away. He can probably still make disloyal Republicans a lightening rod when they don’t do what he wants, but he can’t promise them protection in exchange for taking a tough vote. That ship sailed when Trump’s preferred candidate suffered a 9-point trouncing on Tuesday.
It also means that Trump’s supposed champion Steve Bannon—who campaigned enthusiastically for the bigoted anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim Roy Moore—has helped to effectively neuter Trump at a time when the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“If there was ever a time when Republicans feel pressure to perform, it’s now,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. “If big things don’t get done by Thanksgiving, there really won’t be enough spin to say Republicans here have done anything but fail.”
No wonder Meadows and his Freedom Caucus have suddenly abandoned worrying about the federal deficit, which is sure to balloon under Trump’s tax plan.