Is Trump’s Influence Waning?

 

The title to the post is the question being asked on PowerLine in light of an upset victory in Texas by the candidate not endorsed by President Donald Trump:

Tuesday was election day in a special race to select a successor to Rep. Ron Wright in Texas’ Sixth Congressional District. Wright died from the Wuhan coronavirus.

The candidates were Wright’s widow, Susan Wright, and Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey. Both are conservative Republicans.

Susan Wright was the favorite and the leader in polls. She won the most votes in the primary, in which Ellzey barely finished second, just 354 votes ahead of the leading Democrat. In addition, Wright had the endorsement of former president Trump.

But Ellzey won the race by a margin of 53-47.

And

Mark Davis, a conservative talk show host in Dallas said:

The Trump base in District 6 paid little attention to the fact that Susan got his endorsement. They know that Trump had no familiarity with her and no familiarity with this race.

When, for whatever reason, the Trump base pays little attention to a Trump endorsement, that’s evidence of a loss of influence.

The Sixth District includes suburbs of Dallas/Fort Worth. Trump’s endorsements probably carry greater value in more rural districts. But any sign of waning Trump influence among Republican voters has some significance and, from my perspective, is good news.

But I think Paul Mirengoff, the author of the PowerLine piece, gets it wrong. Davis hints at what I think is the real answer: Trump supporters in the main are neither stupid nor cult worshippers. They support Trumpism, and not Donald Trump per se. They internalize Trumpism as the issues and policy approaches that Donald Trump identified and adopted in 2016. They see Donald Trump as a champion and leader to promote solutions they value. If someone arises who can be as effective as President Trump in promoting these solutions without the baggage, most Trump supporters would happily shift allegiance. But Progressive and NT (and media and Deep State) antagonisms raise serious questions as to whether someone other than President Trump can take on the mantle of Trumpism. Trump supporters are not stupid — they want Trumpism to succeed (which they identify with a proper republican form of government that focuses on the needs and interests of American citizens) — and therefore will not abandon Trump until there is an acceptable alternative that can win. This also means that when Trump weighs into a local district contest if the voters see A as more appropriate than B they will appropriately understand that the Trump organization may not know as well as they do what is best for the district.

A key point in Mirengoff’s article that confirms my thesis is this:

Although Trump endorsed his opponent, Ellzey did not run as an anti-Trump candidate.

In other words, Ellzey did not reject Trumpism. His opponent’s deceased husband was a Trump supporter and it was natural that the Trump organization endorsed the widow who chose to run for the seat her husband held. In fact, it would have been a bad look had they not endorsed her. But it is hardly an upset that Ellzey won without attacking Trumpism. Had he done so and won — that would have been an upset.

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  1. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Migrenoff’s anti-Trump history I think colored his analysis.  Rodin, I think you have it correct.

    • #1
  2. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    I concur with your analysis.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I agree with your assessment: it’s about Trumpism–which also means that someone would probably have to outright promote those values. Ellzey followed a productive strategy, and I think the voters were smart enough to make, at least from the surface issues, the right choice. Thanks!

    • #3
  4. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    I know who didn’t win: that Trump hating little putz who got 2% of the vote in the primary. Yet we had to suffer through multiple Ricochet posts on his candidacy.

    • #4
  5. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    I think you’ve got this exactly right.  Mrs. Tim and I feel the same way.  We support what President Trump was trying to do, but disliked the baggage he brought.  We’d gladly vote for someone who could do the “good” Trump things without doing the “bad” Trump things.

    Plus, politics is local.  We’ll consider endorsements, but won’t blindly follow them.  We know the issues better and will vote accordingly.

    • #5
  6. Victor Tango Kilo Member
    Victor Tango Kilo
    @VtheK

    I am curious how “Trumpism” is defined. To me, “Trumpism” is the alternative to “Bushism,” i.e. “You’ll get nothing and like it” Republicanism, the Republicanism that gave us open borders, costly and botched foreign wars, the TSA, David Souter and John Roberts, the Paul Ryan budget deals, No Child Left Behind, “Read My Lips,” and Failure Theater. 

    I can’t help but notice that the NeverTrump knives are out for Rob DeSantis as well. 

    • #6
  7. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Rodin: They internalize Trumpism as the issues and policy approaches that Donald Trump identified and adopted in 2016

    This Trumpism used to be called Conservatism. Then it was considered the position of the Tea Party.

    What Conservatives and most Republicans want has not changed. They fought Bush II on immigration, they fought Rubio on immigration. These guys were going a different direction. Trump took positions closer to what Conservatives had been saying for decades. 

    It was always about the policies and outcomes not about a cult of Trump. Take the right positions and Trumps voters will follow you, with or without the support of Trump himself. 

    • #7
  8. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    I hope so, but probably not.  

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jager (View Comment):
    It was always about the policies and outcomes not about a cult of Trump. Take the right positions and Trumps voters will follow you, with or without the support of Trump himself. 

    It might get sticky. If Trump decides to run (and I definitely hope he doesn’t), I’d like him to back the person who mostly closely follows most of his policies. If he doesn’t provide that support, it might  be tough. 

    • #9
  10. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    I hope so, but probably not.

    Based on my analysis, there is nothing to hope for unless you like open borders, central planning, socialism et al.

    • #10
  11. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    There were enough variables in that race where I’m not sure that a definitive conclusion is possible.  Wright’s support was weak in the voter count prior to the runoff.  Rick Perry and Dan Crenshaw endorsed Ellzey.  I think it’s likely that the voters just preferred Ellzey, which is your thesis.

    • #11
  12. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jager (View Comment):
    It was always about the policies and outcomes not about a cult of Trump. Take the right positions and Trumps voters will follow you, with or without the support of Trump himself.

    It might get sticky. If Trump decides to run (and I definitely hope he doesn’t), I’d like him to back the person who mostly closely follows most of his policies. If he doesn’t provide that support, it might be tough.

    I can see that as a 2024 issue. My focus was more this special election and the 2022 mid-terms, where Trump won’t be on the ballot at all.  I agree, I would rather have Trump in a “kingmaker” role endorsing someone like De Santis as the heir to his policy goals then as a Candidate for President. ( if he is the nominee I will still vote Trump)

    • #12
  13. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Jager (View Comment):
    ( if he is the nominee I will still vote Trump)

    In a heartbeat. And I opposed Trump’s nomination in 2016.

    • #13
  14. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    I hope so, but probably not.

    Based on my analysis, there is nothing to hope for unless you like open borders, central planning, socialism et al.

    Don’t like any of them, but Trump’s time is done.  He will only be an electoral drag going forward.  Whether there is a path for someone who is similar to Trump on many of his impulses (Trump doesn’t do policy) but smarter politically and with more self control remains to be seen.  If we remain stuck on “stop the steal” and refighting 2020 on Trump’s personal revenge tour we will miss a great opportunity.

    • #14
  15. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    I am curious how “Trumpism” is defined. To me, “Trumpism” is the alternative to “Bushism,” i.e. “You’ll get nothing and like it” Republicanism, the Republicanism that gave us open borders, costly and botched foreign wars, the TSA, David Souter and John Roberts, the Paul Ryan budget deals, No Child Left Behind, “Read My Lips,” and Failure Theater.

    I can’t help but notice that the NeverTrump knives are out for Rob DeSantis as well.

    Claremont institute writers did a decent job trying to get the pulse of Trumpism. First Things may have made a half-hearted attempt, but I think most of the conservative intelligentsia believes their own lies that Trump had no platform so didn’t try to pin it down in any kind of honest fashion. That’s sorta their job, so I’m not impressed with any of them.

    But Claremont writers actually made an honest effort.

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Jager (View Comment):
    It was always about the policies and outcomes not about a cult of Trump. Take the right positions and Trumps voters will follow you, with or without the support of Trump himself. 

    This. In the Florida Governor primaries, the guy who lost to DeSantis was regurgitating Trump and saying he’d support Trump. DeSantis gave more effective defenses of policies and barely talked about Trump. The guy who lost was an establishment guy trying to win an election. DeSantis actually supported the agenda and you could tell in his presentation.

    NT is wrong about the cult.

    • #16
  17. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    I hope so, but probably not.

    Based on my analysis, there is nothing to hope for unless you like open borders, central planning, socialism et al.

    Don’t like any of them, but Trump’s time is done. He will only be an electoral drag going forward. Whether there is a path for someone who is similar to Trump on many of his impulses (Trump doesn’t do policy) but smarter politically and with more self control remains to be seen. If we remain stuck on “stop the steal” and refighting 2020 on Trump’s personal revenge tour we will miss a great opportunity.

    There’s a chance he won’t run.  There’s no chance he won’t be talking.  Query whether a Trump endorsement would be a help in the primaries and a drag in the general election.

    • #17
  18. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    Rodin: In other words, Ellzey did not reject Trumpism. His opponent’s deceased husband was a Trump supporter and it was natural that the Trump organization endorsed the widow who chose to run for the seat her husband held. In fact, it would have been a bad look had they not endorsed her. But it is hardly an upset that Ellzey won without attacking Trumpism. Had he done so and won — that would have been an upset.

    Trump endorsements don’t mean that much.  Ellzey was actually the more Trumpy candidate in the runoff.  (FYI, I predicted he would win back in April before the primary election).    Trump has a lot of influence, but not with endorsements.  His influence is in identifying issues that people care about and being a human litmus test in that voters know how politicians are aligned with establishment or not based on what they say about Trump.   Ellzey is actually more DeSantisy than Trumpy!

    • #18
  19. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    I hope so, but probably not.

    Based on my analysis, there is nothing to hope for unless you like open borders, central planning, socialism et al.

    Don’t like any of them, but Trump’s time is done. He will only be an electoral drag going forward. Whether there is a path for someone who is similar to Trump on many of his impulses (Trump doesn’t do policy) but smarter politically and with more self control remains to be seen. If we remain stuck on “stop the steal” and refighting 2020 on Trump’s personal revenge tour we will miss a great opportunity.

    Florida still has dozens of Trump signs up if you travel the country roads. One area in Geneva outside Orlando renamed themselves Trump Town, USA.

    His support is still strong. And even if you don’t like Trump himself, you should probably shift focus from the politician to policy because if Trump is the only one supporting them, he will win again.

    • #19
  20. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I think we are beginning to see the more objective sentiments of those who support Trumpism or much of it but are not members of a cult supporting Trump himself. We didn’t see much of this while he was POTUS because of how the establishment was arrayed against Trump’s Presidency and anything he was trying to accomplish, even when they supported those things. I think we’ll get it right in 2024.

    • #20
  21. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    Rodin: In other words, Ellzey did not reject Trumpism. His opponent’s deceased husband was a Trump supporter and it was natural that the Trump organization endorsed the widow who chose to run for the seat her husband held. In fact, it would have been a bad look had they not endorsed her. But it is hardly an upset that Ellzey won without attacking Trumpism. Had he done so and won — that would have been an upset.

    Trump endorsements don’t mean that much. Ellzey was actually the more Trumpy candidate in the runoff. (FYI, I predicted he would win back in April before the primary election). Trump has a lot of influence, but not with endorsements. His influence is in identifying issues that people care about and being a human litmus test in that voters know how politicians are aligned with establishment or not based on what they say about Trump. Ellzey is actually more DeSantisy than Trumpy!

    Trump is not good at personnel decisions. I think this is pretty widely known. “Your Fired!” Must have been an inside joke to that effect that he’s better at getting rid of people who disrupt his vision than bringing on people who can work in it.

    • #21
  22. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    Jager (View Comment):

    Rodin: They internalize Trumpism as the issues and policy approaches that Donald Trump identified and adopted in 2016

    This Trumpism used to be called Conservatism.

    If that was true, there would not be fiery debates on this site.  Trump is not a social conservative (by 1990’s standard) and he is not a fiscal conservative (he never said “no” to spending).  He was conservative in foreign policy and regulation.    I have no idea what conservative means when it comes to social policy these days.  I think conservative politicians avoid social issues except to be pro-life and pro-family.

    • #22
  23. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I think we are beginning to see the more objective sentiments of those who support Trumpism or much of it but are not members of a cult supporting Trump himself. We didn’t see much of this while he was POTUS because of how the establishment was arrayed against Trump’s Presidency and anything he was trying to accomplish, even when they supported those things. I think we’ll get it right in 2024.

    I don’t think the cult ever existed.

    The only reason Trump himself was the subject was because his attackers constantly made it about his person and not policy. Most of the defenses against that were that his policies were good. That’s not a personality cult. It’s a defense of people’s own choices based on policy.

    I mean, I like Trump (unlike everyone else). Horrible politician, but I like him. But that had nothing to do with why I voted for him. But the people who hated him couldn’t see past his personality and so that’s where the discussion was centered.

    • #23
  24. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Has there been anything credible that looks at actual voters?  I am wondering if the results mean that Elzey got more of the undecideds than Wright. And how would the NTs have voted?

    • #24
  25. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Has there been anything credible that looks at actual voters? I am wondering if the results mean that Elzey got more of the undecideds than Wright. And how would the NTs have voted?

    It would be hilarious if Trump trolled NT into voting for Ellzey .

    • #25
  26. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Has there been anything credible that looks at actual voters? I am wondering if the results mean that Elzey got more of the undecideds than Wright. And how would the NTs have voted?

    I’ve heard that Kristol gave Ellzey some bucks.

    • #26
  27. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):
    I have no idea what conservative means when it comes to social policy these days.  I think conservative politicians avoid social issues except to be pro-life and pro-family.

    I think there are plenty of conservatives, including social conservatives(which includes me), who think government’s role in social policy should be minimal, and this applies especially to our federal government. With respect to Trump, if we had a federal government focused on foreign policy and national defense, as it was meant to be, he may very well have been a fiscal conservative. But he would probably never have been elected POTUS because the circumstances would never have developed..

    • #27
  28. DonWatt Coolidge
    DonWatt
    @Donwatt

    Be wary of reading too much into this single runoff.  You may well think that the Trump endorsement has lost its mojo, but allow me to make a few points.

    1. The late Rep. Wright won his seat with 170,577 votes out of 339,992 total votes.  Ellzey won the runoff with 20,837 out of just 39,116.  That’s roughly one tenth of the general election turnout.  (According to wikipedia, there are 818,442 in the district.)
    2. Mrs. Wright wasn’t ever a prohibitive or even presumptive  favorite.  She received 19% in the special primary (Ellzey received 14%) out of 23 candidates.
    3. To make Trump’s endorsement the definitive factor is to slight Ellzey’s endorsements from Rick Perry and Dan Crenshaw, both high profile Texas residents.
    4. I would suspect that any (admittedly low) Democratic support in the final vote between two Republicans would most likely have gone to the candidate who wasn’t endorsed by Trump, which could have been the margin of victory.
    5. An aside, one of the 23 in the primary was a vocal anti-Trump candidate,Michael Wood, whose effort went nowhere.

    To close, I think you may be right that the party is moving past Trump to a sort of “trumpism”, but I also think one low turnout election might be too small a sample to prove the point.

     

    • #28
  29. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Trying to read anything “Trump”-related into this race is just silly. That wing of Powerline must be hurting for something to write about. 

    • #29
  30. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Stina (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I think we are beginning to see the more objective sentiments of those who support Trumpism or much of it but are not members of a cult supporting Trump himself. We didn’t see much of this while he was POTUS because of how the establishment was arrayed against Trump’s Presidency and anything he was trying to accomplish, even when they supported those things. I think we’ll get it right in 2024.

    I don’t think the cult ever existed.

    The only reason Trump himself was the subject was because his attackers constantly made it about his person and not policy. Most of the defenses against that were that his policies were good. That’s not a personality cult. It’s a defense of people’s own choices based on policy.

    I mean, I like Trump (unlike everyone else). Horrible politician, but I like him. But that had nothing to do with why I voted for him. But the people who hated him couldn’t see past his personality and so that’s where the discussion was centered.

    I can’t stand him but voted for him.  The problem is not that people couldn’t stand his personality and didn’t vote for him, it’s that Trump was, as you point out, a horrible politician unable to modulate his behavior in ways to attract voters who actually supported him when it came to substance but couldn’t get past his repulsiveness and that’s a fundamental defect in a politician.  I know because I tried to persuade some of these people to vote for him in 2020.  And now, after his behavior post-election, there is no chance to get them back.  Trump lost a winnable election in 2020 because of the choices he made and why I would oppose him in the 2024 Republican primaries if he decided to run again.  He’s a loser.

    • #30