In the earliest days of the Trump administration, there was talk of a one-term presidency. The well-established #NeverTrump Resistance Movement had already been working on that goal since the outcome of the 2016 election was announced – and after having made several unprecedented but failed attempts to prevent Trump’s inauguration.
By virtue of the President’s pugnacious personality, the persistence of the resistance and the one-sided reporting of the once-upon-a-time news media, Trump’s base has never grown – generally undulating between 38 and 44 percent.
Trump’s political adversaries at first questioned why even the so-called base would stick with him despite the torrent of uncompromised criticism emanating from the left-wing establishment. When that failed to reduce Trump’s support, the anti-Trump cabal took of shaming Trump evil incarnate. When that, too, failed to collapse Trump support base, the left took up a full-scale assault on anyone who would not break with the President – including calls for attacks on businesses and individuals who would not yield. Still … the base has held statistically solid.
If that is good news for Trump, the other side of that political coin is not so good. After more than two years in office, Trump has not gained support. In fact, no President has ever been stuck at such a low level of support during their first two years in office. Trump has always been underwater politically in terms of having a higher across-the-board unfavorable rating than a favorable rating.
The second problem for Trump is that even his base is not solid. It is divided between those who idolize Trump without reservation and those who find the administration policies much more to their liking than the proposals of Democrats – but are still put off, to say the least, by the President’s personality and style.
That latter portion of the Trump base is beginning to drift away from the President. It is not difficult to find individuals who had held their nose and voted for Trump because of a revulsion for the alternative – but who will not vote for him in 2020. Conversely, it is virtually impossible to find people who voted against Trump who will vote for him in 2020. When you consider that Trump failed to win the popular vote – and won the Electoral College by some very close votes in key states – it is not difficult to see Trump’s daunting challenge in 2020.
The growing opposition to Trump is not just from the grassroots. A growing number of prominent supporters are bolting. In a previous commentary, I suggested that the loss of long-time supporter Anthony Scaramucci was significant. He served a short time as Trump’s White House Communications Director and was often seen on the news shows defending Trump – and very effectively.
Now cometh Joe Walsh.
The former Illinois congressman is not as nationally famous as Scaramucci – although he does have a significant conservative Trump-loving following from his radio broadcasts. His desertion of the President can only be described as “stunning” – as was Scaramucci’s. These were two guys who were among the most loyal and outspoken cheerleaders – the last you would think would go against Trump.
Even worse for the President, Walsh and Scaramucci are very articulate and have all the zeal of converts. They moved from high praise to severe condemnation in the equivalent of a political nanosecond. For obvious reasons, their presidential apostasy will garner them more media attention than was ever achieved by any of their past praise. They will undoubtedly draw in others who teeter on the fulcrum of the Trump favorable/unfavorable pivot point.
There is one major difference. If Scaramucci has political ambitions, they are unspecified at the moment. Walsh has announced his intention to run against Trump in the GOP primaries. His path to the White House is less likely than Trump’s was in 2016, however. But after Trump’s success, nothing can be discounted completely.
As a former congressman, Walsh has a bit of a resume – as good or better than such so-called serious Democrat candidates as former Congressman Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Peter Buttigieg. We often talk about candidates who can win primaries but do not fare well in general elections. Walsh is the opposite. He could be more appealing in the General Election than in the Republican primaries where the system is virtually rigged for incumbents.
In many ways, Walsh is a lot like Trump. He is a no-holds-barred hyperkinetic speaker given to staged theatrics. He has an absolutist delivery that is not unlike the President. He is a showman. He knows how to get attention – something that the other Trump challenger — former Massachusetts Governor William Weld – is unable to do.
Many question whether one or another Democrat candidate knows how to handle Trump’s pugnacity and bellicosity. Walsh will not agonize over the various options. He loves political mud wrestling. He will give back whatever Trump sends his way – and then some. He made his radio reputation by say the most outrageous things against Democrats — and especially President Obama. Walsh was an outspoken birther when birtherism was a hot political issue. He accused Obama of being essentially an undercover Muslim.
Today, Walsh offers up numerous mea culpas for his past firebrand comments but uses that same harsh judgmental rhetoric against Trump. He sees himself as the child who sees that the emperor has no clothes – wondering in every interview why no other Republican is willing to step forward.
Whether Walsh can cut Trump down to size – as they say – is still a question. But you can rest assured that it will be a top-billed matchup. Should the Walsh presidential campaign go beyond the current news cycle, you can bet that he will inflict some damage on Trump. Walsh is a very smart guy, so he probably understands the odds of his ever becoming the Republican nominee, much less the President of the United States. More likely, Walsh is hoping to launch a dump Trump movement – and that could be the former Illinois congressman’s greatest impact.
So, there ‘tis.