On Friday night, the Arizona Senate race was called for Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. As for Donald Trump’s reaction on Truth Social? “This is a scam and voter fraud. . .They stole the electron from Blake Masters. Do election over again,” he said, but that stance has already botched the midterms for the GOP and is why Trump finally finds himself on the outs.
I first thought that was the case when he descended the escalator at Trump Tower and told us Mexico was sending us its rapists. I doubled down when he disrespected John McCain by saying he liked people who “weren’t captured.” And I was convinced it was the end of his campaign when we heard the “Grab ‘em by the p****” tape.
I’m nothing if not consistent, yet this time feels different.
The conservative media has now turned against Donald Trump. They now recognize that he has cost the GOP the last several election cycles by putting his thumb on the scale, favoring those who showed fealty to him at the risk of electability.
Particularly galling to many was his attempt to emasculate potential Republican rival Ron DeSantis during a late campaign rally in Pennsylvania — three days before DeSantis would record the largest GOP gubernatorial victory seen in Florida since 1868.
The pushback has been intense. Just look at the New York Post cover from Thursday.
“Trumpty dumpty: Don (who couldn’t build a wall), had a great fall, can all the GOP’s men put the party together again?”
This wasn’t the liberal Washington Post. It was the New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. Inside was this piece by conservative columnist John Podhoretz, titled “Here’s How Donald Trump Sabotaged the Republican Midterms.”
Podhoretz — like another conservative journalist, Peggy Noonan — recounted races where Trump helped nominate inferior candidates, robbing republicans of a clean shot at both the House and Senate.
As Podhoretz put it, “In almost every place a trumpster lost, there had been a regular republican who could and should have been the party’s nominee — a nominee who could have taken advantage of the uniquely horrible facts and fundamentals confronting democratic candidates in 2022.”
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board was similarly blunt.
“Trump is the Republican Party’s biggest loser. He has now flopped in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022,” they said.
The Journal, too, gave specific examples, including Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, Blake Masters in Arizona, Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.
Then there was the conservative Washington Examiner, which went with the headline:
“Voters Show They Want Sanity and Don’t Want Trump.”
The paper pointed out that Trump’s presumptive 2024 rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in his re-election victory speech claimed,“Florida was a refuge of sanity when the world went mad.”
The Examiner added, “Florida voters loved this message, and whereas then-President Donald Trump barely beat Joe Biden by three points in the state only two years ago, DeSantis crushed his opponent by 20 points on election day. Other Republican governors who brought order instead of chaos also won. In Ohio, Gov. Mike Dewine ran away with a 25-point victory. Gov. Chris Sununu took New Hampshire by 15 points. And in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds won by 20 points.”
The Examiner concluded, “These midterm elections have made it crystal clear that voters want to move past the chaos and dishonor of the 45th President.”
Over on Fox News, Mark Theissen, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, said, “We have the worst inflation in four decades, the worst collapse in real wages in 40 years, the worst crime wave since the 1990s, the worst border crisis in U.S. History, we have Joe Biden, who is the least popular president since Harry Truman, since presidential polling happened, and there wasn’t a red wave. That is a searing indictment of the republican party. That is a searing indictment of the message that we have been sending to the voters. They looked at all of that, and looked at the Republican alternative, and said ‘no thanks.’”
Trump’s response was to take to Truth Social and vent about the media — and portray DeSantis as an ingrate.
“News Corp, which is Fox, The Wall Street Journal, and the no longer great New York Post. . .is all in for Governor Ron Desanctimonious, an average Republican governor with great public relations, who didn’t have to close up his state, but did, unlike other Republican governors, whose overall numbers for a Republican, were just average. . .,” he said.
Trump was offended that when DeSantis was asked by the media if he would run if Trump runs, DeSantis demurred.
Trump said, “Well in terms of loyalty and class that’s really not the right answer.”
Then, for good measure, he made another unprovoked attack on a potential rival — Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Young kin (now that’s an interesting take. Sounds Chinese, doesn’t it?) in Virginia couldn’t have won without me. . .,” Trump said.
It’s hard to keep up.
Almost lost in the aftermath of the midterm was that Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, is finally finding his voice with regard to his former running mate.
Pence never testified before the January 6 committee, but now, in publishing a book, he’s providing a TikTok of what went on before, during, and after January 6.
An excerpt was published in Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal under the ominous headline, “My Last Days With Donald Trump.”
Pence recounts the browbeating he sustained by Trump, who wanted him to disregard his constitutional duties.
At one point Trump chided him, ‘You’re too honest,” and told him, “you’ll go down as a wimp.”
Powerful stuff — that would have made more of an impact under oath instead in a memoir.
Of course, not all are convinced that all of this conservative closing of ranks against Trump will thwart his attempt at a comeback.
This headline accompanied media columnist Erik Wemple’s piece in The Washington Post:
“Wake Me When Hannity Turns on Trump.”
He makes a good point. Trump has yet to lose the Fox Primetime lineup, still the epicenter of GOP talking points and leadership.
And now, as votes are still being tallied from the midterm, another high drama Trump moment looms. Tuesday night he promised a “special announcement.” Will he formally announce his candidacy?
Even one of his former press secretaries, Kayleigh McEnaney, has said he should delay the announcement so as not to conflict with the December 6 Georgia runoff.
However, in the face of the opposition he has drawn because of his poor primary picks and antagonism toward would-be rivals, to Trump that will seem like weakness, capitulation.
Yesterday, a SiriusXM radio caller of mine, Don in Illinois, invoked Churchill when trying to figure out what’s about to unfold.
On November 10, 1942 — 80 years ago this week — Churchill said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
To what exactly. . .We will soon find out.
Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.