TRUMP’S LOSING SENATE RECORD. With Republican Herschel Walker’s loss in the Georgia Senate runoff, the 2022 midterm elections are finally over. The GOP actually took a step backward in the Senate, from the 50 seats the party controls now to 49 in the new Senate that convenes in January. That will be a big boost for Democrats, who had chafed under the difficulties of running a Senate that was evenly divided at 50-50, relying on the vice president’s vote to break ties. Now, if Democrats stick together, they can win outright, and even if they lose one of their own, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), they can still prevail.
There’s all sorts of finger-pointing going on in Georgia after Walker’s defeat. “He should have never run for this seat,” an anonymous “person close to the campaign” told Politico. “Herschel had a ton of baggage he was not transparent about.” Indeed, Walker was a bad candidate — one could watch any of his campaign appearances and see that.
Walker did have one very important backer, and that was former President Donald Trump. Trump loves celebrities and sports stars, and Walker was both. Trump famously hired Walker when Trump owned a team, the New Jersey Generals, in the ill-fated USFL back in the 1980s. Trump was also well aware that Walker was, and is, a legend in Georgia, having led the University of Georgia Bulldogs to a national championship in 1980 and winning the Heisman Trophy in 1982. To Trump, those were the ingredients of a successful candidacy. Who in Georgia doesn’t love Herschel?
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It turns out there is a difference between loving a football hero and electing a senator. Walker was an unimpressive candidate. All right, he was a terrible candidate. In addition, there is nothing that thrills Democrats like the opportunity to vote against Trump — or to think they are voting against Trump if Trump himself is not on the ballot. Finally, Republican hopes that a black candidate would appeal to black voters in Georgia went up in smoke. A CNN poll released just before the election showed black voters supporting Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) over Walker 96% to 3%. Final results might vary, but probably not by much.
Now that the Senate races are over, it is time to assess Trump’s record in promoting Republican candidates. First, no Republican incumbent senators lost. Trump endorsed and helped a few incumbents who were facing challenges, such as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Charles Grassley (R-IA). All prevailed, but they won because of their records, not because of an endorsement.
Trump’s greatest efforts were on behalf of first-time candidates who supported him in GOP primaries and then went on to the general election. On that, his record is…bad. Look at the places Trump held rallies, indicating that he thought a race was important enough for his personal involvement. He went to Ohio to support Senate candidate J.D. Vance, who won. He went to North Carolina to support Ted Budd, who won. After that, it was one loss after another. He went to Pennsylvania to support Mehmet Oz, who lost. He went to Arizona to support Blake Masters, who lost. He went to Nevada to support Adam Laxalt, who lost. He went to Alaska to support Kelly Tshibaka, who lost. And he went to Georgia to support Herschel Walker, who lost.
That’s a 2-5 record. It was always clear that Trump exercised a lot of influence in Republican primaries. He still does. But the real test was whether his chosen candidates actually got elected to office. And with the Republican first-timers running for Senate, Trump had more failures than successes.
Now Trump is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, although he hasn’t done any campaigning in public beyond announcing his candidacy on Nov. 15. He has spent some of his time doing damage control from a bizarre dinner at Mar-a-Lago just before Thanksgiving, in which he was pranked by Kanye West, Nick Fuentes, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a group of self-promoters, antisemites, and mental patients seeking publicity for West’s own presidential “campaign.”
Trump went from that damage control effort to another damage control effort, this one over his demand that, because of what he called “MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD” in the 2020 election, he should immediately be declared president or that a new election should be held. Trump added, “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” Suggesting that provisions of the Constitution be terminated in order to restore himself to the White House was too much even for some of Trump’s supporters. So more damage control was needed.
As all this goes on, there is evidence that Trump is losing altitude in the Republican Party, in particular in relation to his main potential challenger, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). A recent poll from Marquette University Law School tested head-to-head matchups between Trump and President Joe Biden and DeSantis and Biden. DeSantis did better than Trump. In the poll, DeSantis and Biden tied, 42% to 42%, while Trump lost to Biden by 10 points, 44% to 34%.
In addition, the poll showed that over the course of 2022, DeSantis’s favorability rating among Republicans surpassed that of Trump. In January of this year, 57% of Republicans said they had a favorable opinion of DeSantis. Now, it’s 68% — a single point higher than Trump’s 67% favorability among Republicans.
We now have Trump’s full record in Senate races. Going 2-5 among the newcomers he promoted will not do much to help his reputation as a power to be reckoned with. Yes, Trump still has solid support among many Republicans, especially a hardcore base that will likely stick with him no matter what. But elections are about getting elected, and it appears that will be increasingly difficult for the former president.
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