Democrats love that Trump distracts from their failures
The media can’t stop talking about Donald Trump, which makes two groups happy: Democrats, and Donald Trump.
You can argue that this is the administration’s strategy, that the Mar-a-Lago raid was as much a political ploy as a legal proceeding. But Trump, as he always done, has used his legal troubles to raise even more money, call for the ouster of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and relitigate the 2020 election.
President Biden’s team couldn’t be more thrilled. For every moment that the conversation is about Trump, or Trump demanding fealty from fellow Republicans, is a moment not spent talking about inflation, taxpayer money spent forgiving student loans, the year anniversary of the shameful death of 13 service members because of the disastrous Afghan pullout, the ongoing border crises . . . or any of the countless failures of the Biden administration.
The renewed obsession already has reinforced the Democrats’ preferred framing of the midterm elections — a binary choice between their quest to “save democracy” from Trump and his ultra-MAGA followers, who are trying to subvert it — versus a referendum on Biden.
Biden’s job-approval ratings have improved, but going from 40% to 45%, roughly Barack Obama’s level of support when Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010, is not a huge game-changer.
Yet Trump’s endorsements in a variety of key Senate races have already put in doubt the Republicans’ ability to win back the upper chamber, a political feat that would only require a net gain of a single seat. The red wave is slowing to such a trickle that it’s possible Republicans won’t even be able to manage that much (Mitch McConnell seems skeptical).
Trump has barely spent a dime to help, despite having a war chest of more than $100 million.
To many Republican voters, the Mar-a-Lago gambit reeks of a political put-up job. And it follows in the pattern of past investigations of Trump: a lot of heavy breathing and rumors of serious charges to come with most of the evidence shielded from public view.
But ahead of this November, or November 2024, is this really what Republicans want to be talking about? Trump may dodge charges, but he was cavalier enough with classified documents — or at least his dealing with the National Archives — to get into this predicament.
Suburban voters who Republicans were winning back as recently as last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election may once again drift out of the GOP coalition, limiting pickup opportunities this fall and the path to an Electoral College majority two years later.
Imagine a world without Trump. The focus would be where Democrats least want it — on their and Biden’s performance in office. It won’t be on rehashing past controversies rather than debating current events.
Trump also negates two of the biggest advantages Republicans could carry into 2024: age (he will be 78 to Biden’s 81) and enthusiasm (all the excitement he generates on the right is equaled or exceeded by outrage on the center and left).
A new generation of Republican leadership, moreover, is coming of age that has learned from Trump’s positives — a willingness to fight, a certain fearlessness in dealing with the media, a lack of willingness to play by the left’s political rules — without repeating all his negatives. The chief negatives they would avoid is his inability to stay on message and keep his eyes on the prize.
W. James Antle III is politics editor of the Washington Examiner and author of “Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?”