Politics Opinions | Vulnerable Republicans sold their souls to Trump. He’s not helping them.
Fact-checking Trump's massively dishonest weekend: The President made at least 66 separate false or misleading claims in three days
President Donald Trump's dishonesty is getting worse. © Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images US President Donald Trump gestures during a rally at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville, Wisconsin on October 17, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images) Trump has been reliably deceptive for his entire presidency, filling his speeches and tweets with lies and other false statements.
Depending on the place you’re trying to represent in Congress, the leader of your party can sometimes present a dilemma. If you’re a Democrat in Alabama or a Republican in Rhode Island, you’ll have to tell voters, “I’ll support my party when I agree with them and stand up to them when I don’t, because what voters in our state/district want is an independent voice down there in Washington!”
Sometimes they believe it and sometimes they don’t, and some party leaders are harder to defend than others. But right now we’re seeing something remarkable: Republican candidates who have strapped themselves to President Trump are paying a price, even in some heavily Republican areas.
Kristen Welker: 5 things to know about the moderator of Thursday's presidential debate
Kristen Welker has been criticized by President Trump as "terrible & unfair." Get to know the White House correspondent ahead of the last debate.The NBC News White House correspondent and "Weekend Today" co-anchor will moderate the debate at Belmont University in Nashville (9 EDT/6 PDT). The second presidential debate was axed after Trump declined to participate virtually, following his COVID-19 diagnosis. Instead, he and Biden held dueling town halls , and the former vice president beat Trump in the Nielsen ratings.
So we see the laughable spectacle of Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who is trying to win her multi-candidate race in Georgia byherself as almost maniacally conservative, “I’m not familiar with that” when asked about the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump bragged about committing sexual assault. You probably remember it, even if Loeffler doesn’t.
Then there’s Sen. Martha McSally getting humiliated by Trump at a rally in Arizona. “Just come up, fast. Fast. Fast. Come on. Quick,”, beckoning her to the podium. “You got one minute! One minute, Martha! They don’t want to hear this, Martha. Come on. Let’s go. Quick, quick, quick quick.”
Like Loeffler, McSally was appointed to fill a vacancy after a seat came open and is now trying to win in her own right. And like Georgia, Arizona was safely Republican just a short time ago but is now a battleground state.
Opinion: The ghost haunting the 2020 election
Republicans are hoping for, and Democrats are dreading, the possibility Donald Trump could repeat history and overcome dismal mid-October polls to gain an electoral college victory. But much has changed in four years, as Thursday's debate showed.The ghost of 2016, when Donald Trump overcame dismal mid-October polls and eked out a surprise Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton to become president.
Trump is affecting every race all the way down the ballot, and to be clear, the effect isn’t always negative for Republicans. Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y), for instance, transformed herself from a moderate Republican into a Trump cheerleader and has beenwith $11 million in contributions and a strong position in her upstate, heavily white and rural district.
But the higher a Republican’s profile and the more they’re seen as a Trump ally, the more they rouse the ire of a mobilized Democratic base. No one knows that more than Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), whose lickspittlery toward Trump knows no equal. His opponent, Jaime Harrison, hada stunning $107 million by mid-October, more than any Senate candidate in history, simply because Democrats everywhere loathe Graham. Polls show the race dead-even, in a state Trump won in 2016 by 14 points.
The biggest problem these candidates face isn’t just that Trump is polarizing and unpopular. In some places like South Carolina that might not matter much, since there are enough loyal Republicans to bring a GOP candidate to victory. The problem is that in the race’s closing days, Trump will only make things harder for them.
Opinions | Could Trump end up going quietly? Here are 5 ways that might happen.
How the election's outcome could prove a lot smoother than anyone expects. “There will never be a peaceful transition of power under Donald J. Trump,” Cohen told MSNBC on Sunday, adding that Trump is desperate to retain the immunities he enjoys from ongoing legal threats, including possible prosecution for tax crimes.
We see it in that cringe-worthy moment with McSally, where Trump just couldn’t keep his rampaging ego and lack of a filter between brain and mouth in check. But more importantly, Trump is spending the remaining days of his campaign reminding everyone of the things they don’t like about him: denying the reality of a pandemic that has already killed over 225,000 Americans and is increasing in strength, putting his corruption, babbling about Hunter Biden, and whining about the media.
None of that helps you if you’re a down-ballot candidate. And Trump couldn’t care less. He may understand at an intellectual level that it’s better for him if Republicans win the Senate (though neither he nor they have any legislation they’re eager to pass), but at the moment all that’s occupying him is self-preservation, and he is unable to be rational about all that down-ballot stuff. In some other universe he might spend the final days convincing voters that he can be responsible and competent, but this is not that universe.
Which leaves Republicans in tight races with nowhere to turn. They can’t distance themselves from him lest they alienate their constituents who love him. But they can’t embrace him either — especially when he’s descending into lunacy — lest they alienate swing voters.
So when Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.)that “the best check on a Biden presidency is for Republicans to have a majority in the Senate,” he articulated an argument that many other Republicans probably wish they could make. But they can’t.
With four whole days between now and election day, it’s all but guaranteed that Trump will say and do things that make other Republicans’ task more difficult. And in the end, some of them may find that they sold their souls by standing behind him, but wound up losing their careers anyway.
The Daily 202: If Trump wins, these are the 10 most likely explanations for how it happened .
Biden acts like the election boils down to a Pennsylvania Senate race. Joe Biden leads President Trump by 10 points among registered voters, 52 percent to 42 percent, in the final national pre-election poll conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal. Majorities of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and disapprove of the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.