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Analysis: With Petty Feuds, Endless Drama, and Foolish Outbursts, Trump Keeps Harming His 2020 Chances

Sometimes, he just can't help himself.  Literally.  Realistic President Trump's supporters -- many of whom may be eyeing his mediocre-at-best approval ratings and strikingly tepid re-elect numbers -- understand two things: First, the economy (yes, still) and the policy extremism, cultural radicalism, and off-putting overreach of his opponents are the president's strongest assets heading into next year.  Second, all too often, the president's largest stumbling block is himself.  Granted, his true believers will love and exuberantly defend basically anything he does.  This is hardly an exaggeration.  Also granted, many right-leaning and independent voters who don't care for his comportment and habitual excesses will hold their nose and back him next fall, especially in the event that the Democrats nominate a hardened leftist.  But as we learned in the midterms, these two groups combined are not large enough to guarantee Trump four more years in office.  He needs to motivate his core base and bring a significant number of skeptics on side.  


Self-inflicted wounds undermine his ability to broaden and build the coalition he needs.  Public polling suggests that many Americans yearn for a return to relative normalcy, and do not view Trump as embodying stable, presidential characteristics.  The 2016 election was a 'change' cycle, so 'normal' and 'stable' were not necessarily near the top of many voters' priority lists.  But the incumbent doesn't want 2020 to become another change election, for obvious reasons.  He needs to convince people that things are going well, and that handing the keys to the car over to the opposition party would be a needless risk.  There's a strong case to be made on those points, but it frequently gets overshadowed by Trump insisting on totally undisciplined forays into exhausting, petty feuds.  For example, this one, in which he can't resist elevating a former ally-turned-critic, lobbing insults at a man he personally hired to run his entire White House communications operation:


Trump and much of the MAGA crowd live for this kind of drama.  It's his lifeblood.  Many, many persuadable voters do not.  There's a reason a third-tier presidential candidate garnered attention and acclaim for his recent promise that if elected, average people won't need to think about him for "two weeks at a time."  A refreshing thought.  Then there's the president's mind-bending decision to take a fun little online meme (this self-aware wink was genuinely fun and inspired), based on a non-crazy idea, and escalate it into a pointless and stupid international incident:


Do I believe this episode is devastating?  No.  I don't even think almost anyone will remember it in a few weeks, as we'll have moved on to new partisan circus acts and kerfuffles.  But I do believe there's a cumulative , slow-building 'drip, drip, drip' effect to these stories.  Political death by a thousand tweets, if you will.  No single flare-up is sufficient to fatally wound the president's prospects for re-election, but the endless noise builds and builds until it gets on enough (non-"resistance") voters' nerves that they just don't want to hear it anymore.  Which brings us to this:

"...all Jews, Blacks, Gays, everyone. And importantly, he’s good for everyone in America who wants a job,” the quote concludes.  What is this absolutely bonkers ("second coming of God"?) quote referring to?  And why is Trump sharing it?  Because of this mess, in which the president mindlessly inserted himself into the latest anti-Semitism controversy involving Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, busting through the wall like the Kool Aid guy.  He demonstrated that in spite of railing against these Squad members for their bigotry -- and they richly deserve lots of harsh criticism -- he doesn't understand that putting his own spin on 'dual loyalty' tropes is a very bad idea.  Various allies are now spinning his comment, explaining what he "really meant" in discussing American Jews' disloyalty, but he's once again tossed a self-defeating lifeline to Omar, Tlaib and their defenders by interrupting their worsening scandal and muddying the waters with his own ignorant bloviations.  For smart takes on the meaning and context of the president's latest outburst, read this and this. And yes, liberal hypocrisy abounds.  But to me, the simple truth about his thought process and motivation can be boiled down, appropriately, to a tweet:


In short, I'm not "freaking out" about any of this, nor am I in the grips of anti-Trump derangement.  I'm also not proclaiming that the president is doomed next year, in spite of some of the red flags in the data.  He could definitely win.  I'm simply saying that vis-a-vis the 'drip, drip, drip' phenomenon I mentioned earlier, we've witnessed a mini downpour in recent days.  One need not be personally offended by any of it to at least consider how it's wearing on, and grinding down, others.  Meanwhile, as his wife clumsily plays the 'electability' card (which is compelling until it isn't), I'll leave you with whatever this bizarre, rambling nonsense is from Joe Biden.  Yikes.  I wonder if Team Trump might start rooting for this man to be their opponent:


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