This Isn’t Even Really About Brett Kavanaugh Anymore. It’s Beyond That.
Maybe we’re too cynical. But Trump’s proven himself politically savvy many times before, locking in on trends that excite his base. And we think when the President walks out onto the White House lawn and says “it’s a very scary time for young men in America“, there’s a very good chance he believes that statement will win votes for Republicans in the midterms. Here’s the clip (click on the photo to watch):
(Just a quick reminder: Trump is criticizing Democrats for finding folks “guilty before they’re proven innocent” when he invented “Lock Her Up!”)
Elections are coming up really a pretty short time from now: we’re down to about a month. And Republicans had yet to find an issue to really energize their base. Trump and his Republican cohorts were trying to get a lot of the President’s supporters excited about voting just to “save” Trump and his agenda from Democrats bent on “undoing everything”. (Which face it, was not an obvious “winner”, and was reflected as much in polls). Now they’ve got something better: making it about that same core of white male voters saving themselves. And it’s not just about men, Trump thinks he can sell it to women too. In an interesting twist, at a rally in Mississippi, Trump addressed women, appealing to them to think of their husbands, their fathers, their brothers, their sons. And demonstrating the jeopardy they’re all in by role playing an extended imaginary conversation:
Trump: “Mom, a terrible thing just happened. A person who I’ve never met said that I did things that were horrible, and they’re firing me from my job, mom. I don’t know what to do. Mom, what do I do? What do I do, mom? What do I do, mom?”
Here’s the clip with that:
Also, for the first time we remember, Trump made fun of Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and her account of the alleged attack. You can watch that one here:
Trump left no room for misunderstanding, concluding Democrats are “really evil people” and “the Democrat party has become too extreme and too dangerous to be trusted with power.”
Up until now, while never really wavering in his support, Trump has equivocated a lot more than others in his party on his support of the Supreme Court nominee, saying lying to Congress “would not be acceptable” and “a lot is going to depend on what comes back from the F.B.I.” Oh and BTW, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the additional F.B.I. report everybody’s waiting for will not be released to the public; only Senators will get to see it before they vote on whether to approve Kavanaugh. Of course it will leak, but that’ll just give Republicans more ammunition with which to blame Democrats.
We’ll always remember the sage words of none other than Paul Manafort, who ahead of the 2016 election, said something like “whoever is in the spotlight on election day will lose.” Trump is taking that advice to heart again: jockeying to make sure come election day it’s Democrats in the spotlight. The motivation for his voters? As always with Trump, fear. Fear that Democrats are a dangerous threat toward the male gender.
Polls still do show the general population increasingly not favoring Kavanaugh. (Even at the Trump rally, the “We Want Kavanaugh” chant was hardly as loud and lasted hardly as long as “Lock Her Up”.) But at the same time, Republicans have started to gain ground in election polls. We can’t say it’s because of the backlash Trump is trying to promote. But it’s also not for no reason. (And we don’t think it’s because Trump did a trade deal with Canada: “tremendous reviews!”, or “fell in love” with Kim Jong-un.) Fivethirtyeight is now handicapping the chances of Democrats flipping the House at 75%, still pretty good, but down from 80% just a few days ago. And the chance they give to Republicans hanging onto the Senate–and the power over potential future Supreme Court nominees that comes with it–is now close to 72%, compared to 68%. Nate Silver characterizes it this way: “the past week’s polls…a mix of ‘really bad’, ‘pretty bad’, and ‘actually not *that* bad’ for the GOP — as opposed to in late September when almost everything was ‘really bad'”.
But wait a sec! Trump’s going to be hurt for sure by a brutal New York Times expose that just came out, right? Doubt it. The Times story shows in excruciating detail how Trump participated with his father in schemes to rip off the government to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes on real estate transactions.
We think this might even make Trump look good through lots of sets of eyes. This guy beat the system! He might be totally shady, even criminal, but he’s shrewd. Plus he never got caught, which makes him smart too! That’ll resonate. In certain circles, it may even gain him a measure of respect.