The GOP has got a fever . . . and the only prescription is more Donald.
That’s the takeaway from the Trumpian sycophants and MAGA punditocracy following yesterday’s electoral shellacking from Bucks County to the Bluegrass State to Virginia Beach.
Much of the focus was on Kentucky, where Donald Trump led a pagan tent revival slash Roman trial slash Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Camacho-esque political rally on Monday night that was intended to put the state’s Trumpian governor Matt Bevin over the top. Bevin had explicitly made his reelection campaign a referendum on impeachment and Trump himself told the crowd that a loss in the state “sends a very bad message.”
That was before the vote. After the vote, Trump’s cheerleaders insisted that there was no message being sent, of any kind.
Those on the payroll were the first to jump. Ronna “don’t call me Romney” McDaniel tweeted that Bevin was down 17 points (false) before Trump came to the state to “lift the entire ticket.” Trump’s campaign manager argued that Bevin lost because the winner “acts like a Republican.” Maybe the Democrat Andy Beshear acts like a Republican from the 1990s, but Bevin is a true modern-day Republican: He literally walks around in a jacket with Trump’s face plastered all over it.
I'll just leave you this picture of Matt Bevin in a trumpface jacket. pic.twitter.com/Sht4wwdqmu
— SUN (@ictussunshine) November 6, 2019
(Allow me a brief pause to let the amalgamation of garishness and subservience of Matt Bevin’s jacket sink in for a moment.)
But at least those stans are paid to say stuff like this.
That’s not supposed to be the case for Hugh Hewitt, who rushed into the breach Wednesday morning with a simple message: Ryde or die, bitch.
Message from last night to R election professions: Every GOP candidate on ticket statewide in a @realDonaldTrump state and almost everyone in a blue state has to put arms around @POTUS and squeeze through 2020. MSM of course missing this.
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) November 6, 2019
This . . . analysis . . . yielded some blowback. So Hewitt doubled down:
It’s just red getting redder and blue bluer and makes 2020 a 3 state election: MI, PA and WI (though @marc_lotter argued to me this AM that MN and NH are in play and Ds would say AZ definitely is.) I’ve triggered lots of #NeverTrump and professional Ds this AM, but that’s it. https://t.co/M6CFMkwkN6
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) November 6, 2019
Hard to figure what numbers from last night make Trump World think that Minnesota has come into play. But there were elections in one of the six states Hewitt mentioned. And they went terribly for the GOP. Republicans were defeated across Pennsylvania in local elections, from Scranton to Bucks County—which had been the “last GOP stronghold” in suburban Philly. In Virginia—a state that would be in play if the incumbent Republican president was successful and popular—Republicans were wiped out, with Democrats holding the governorship and both houses for the first time in a quarter century winning not just with the deep state bureaucrats in Northern Virginia but also in suburban Richmond and Virginia Beach.
And then there’s Kentucky. Yes, it is true that Republicans swept the down ballot races in the Bluegrass state. Yes, there were hot takes about “what it all means” for Mitch Mcconnell’s Senate race that were overwrought. Yes, Matt Bevin is a negative charisma version of Coach Cal, who had a suitcase full of ill-will from a life-time of being a jerk.
But even still. Donald Trump won the state by 30 forking points. THIRTY. I’m sure a lot of people in Kentucky were personally victimized by Matt Bevin—but a third of the electorate?
Hewitt thinks the lesson of last night was that for Republicans to win, they need to hug Trump. Bevin literally wrapped Donald Trump around his shoulders and let his saggy orange skin envelope the entire campaign. (I know I need to get over the jacket, but my God LOOK AT IT). Chuck Todd, not a noted Trump ally, said that a Bevin victory would happen on the back of outrage about impeachment. And Bevin got the message. The morning of the election he was ranting to MSNBC’s Vaughn Hillyard about impeachment charade.
It didn’t work.
In the three election years since Donald Trump was last on the ballot the GOP has gotten whupped. The trends across all the elections are clear: The party as currently constituted is deeply unpopular not just in American cities, but now in the suburbs and, increasingly, in the exurbs, too.
Does this mean that Donald Trump is doomed for reelection? Of course not! His Electoral College path is still operative. And there might be something to the idea that Trumpism works for Trump even while everyone he touches dies.
But this idea that the only way for everyone around him to survive is to hold hands and jump just doesn’t match up to the facts. There are prime examples of governors in states far less hospitable to Republicans than Kentucky winning while calling Trump out or at minimum not debasing themselves entirely.
The greatest trick that Trump ever played on the party was convincing them that their only path to salvation was through him. Election after election since 2016 has proven that if you’re a Republican officeholder, he is not here to save you.
The lesson for GOP elected officials from last night should be that if preserving your dignity and moral compass was not enough reason to keep Trump at arm’s length, maybe the specter of an embarrassing defeat will be.