Typically, The Wall Street Journal editorial board has good takes, but this one about Donald Trump misses a key fact that undercuts this narrative by some folks about Trump and his alleged toxic influence on the GOP. It’s not a total hatchet job, however. It does ask a serious question after the former president’s address at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past week. If Trumpism is the future, how is it that the Republican Party is out of power in DC? Look, it’s not wholly unfair to ask. It’s certainly framed in a way that warrants a debate. It’s not dripping in sanctimoniousness, which is pervasive among the anti-Trump establishment, what’s left of them. Here’s what they noted about Trump’s return (via WSJ):
Mr. Trump boasted about his record vote total for an incumbent President, and he took credit for every GOP success down the ballot in 2020. His estimable polling advisers, John and Jim McLaughlin, made the same case in our Letters column on Monday
We welcome the debate, but if 2020 was so fabulous, why are Republicans shut out of power up and down Pennsylvania Avenue? They have zero influence over the $1.9 trillion spending extravaganza they rightly deplore. Democrats are slowly erasing the Trump legacy on taxes, deregulation, energy, education, and so much more.
This didn’t have to happen. Incumbent presidential races are typically consolidating elections as the party in power reinforces gains from four years earlier. The Trump years are a rare exception, as Mr. Trump never reached a job approval rating above 50% despite his policy achievements. The public dislike is personal.
Mr. Trump said Sunday that he won’t form a third party because it would divide the center-right coalition and elect Democrats. But he also laid out his political enemies list and is clearly bent on revenge against anyone who voted to impeach or convict him or disagrees with his election claims. These intra-party fights will sap GOP energy and resources when their priority now should be retaking Congress in 2022.
Mr. Trump’s base of support means he will play an important role in the GOP. But as the Biden months roll on and the policy consequences of the 2020 defeat become stark, perhaps the party’s grassroots will begin to look past the Trump era to a new generation of potential standard-bearers. As long as Republicans focus on the grievances of the Trump past, they won’t be a governing majority.
What’s missing is one number: 90,000. That’s how many votes the Republican Party needed total across the presidential, Senate, and House races to control…everything in Washington DC. That doesn’t necessarily sound off alarm bells. It certainly doesn’t mean that Trump is toxic. The GOP gained seats when we were projected to lose at least ten. The Democratic House majority is razor-thin. The Senate is split 50-50. And the Democrats missed key state legislative targets in 2020. The reason: Trump buoyed Republican candidates—even Democrats admit it. The Washington Post was the one who crunched the numbers here showing that the 2020 election was well-within reach for Trump, which I know will only rehash the allegations of voter fraud. That’s never going away (via WaPo):
Republicans came, at most, 43,000 votes from winning each of the three levers of power. And that will surely temper any move toward drastic corrective action vis-a-vis former president Donald Trump.
The number of votes to flip the result was similar in the House. As the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman noted in light of Tenney’s win, fewer than 32,000 votes could have flipped the five seats that Republicans would have needed to win the House majority — Illinois’s 17th District, Iowa’s 3rd, New Jersey’s 7th, Texas’s 15th and Virginia’s 7th.
While incumbent David Perdue (R-Ga.) lost the closest Senate race in a runoff last month with now-Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) by about 55,000 votes, he previously came very close to avoiding the runoff altogether. On Election Day, he took 49.7 percent of the vote — fewer than 14,000 votes from winning the race outright. That would have foreclosed any chance Democrats had at winning the Senate.
So, 43,000 votes for president, 32,000 votes for the House and 14,000 votes for the Senate. Shifts of 0.6 percent for president, 2.2 percent for the House, and 0.3 percent for the Senate.
Yeah, I don’t think we really need to be looking for new standard-bearers? We have one: Donald Trump. The party has gained in demographics that make up 71 percent of the vote over the past eight years. The deluge of working-class Americans coming into the fold has made the GOP base bluer collared and populist. This is nothing to fear. There’s plenty of overlap between Trumpism and what Reagan conservatives have fought for over the past quarter-century. For sure, losing DC and the White House was a punch to the gut, but there’s room to grow here. There’s the change to turn things around in 2022 and if we’re honest, there’s no intra-party squabble. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) doesn’t have that much pull. The party base wants Trump. They want him to be a key player in shaping the future of the party. If you don’t like that, you can go. It’s that simple. A lot can happen in a year and right now, it looks like Joe Biden is set to enrage the very suburban voters that helped him win by dithering on reopening schools when the science says it’s fine to do so. In fact, his entire COVID agenda had to be either walked back or halted in recent weeks. It’s looking very Trumpian—that’s because it is. The only development that has occurred is that we have three COVID vaccines that have been authorized for use, thanks to Operation War Speed—a Trump initiative. We have light at the end of the tunnel because of Trump. Millions of lives will be saved because of Trump. This is Trump’s signature domestic achievement for which he won't get the credit he deserves.
The American people wanted a silver bullet for COVID. We have three now, but they stupidly voted for the other guy named Joe Biden.
Presidential margin shift, 2012-20— Patrick Ruffini (@PatrickRuffini) February 23, 2021
White Non-College, R+13
White College, D+21
Republicans gained in demographics totaling 71% of the vote, but white college voters shifted more sharply left.