When will this country be done with this clown show?
And when will Republican voters absorb that crying “fraud” is what Trump does reflexively whenever he or his proxy loses a close election, irrespective of the circumstances? He did it after Ted Cruz beat him in the 2016 Iowa caucus and he’s doing it today as his candidate, Mehmet Oz, leads by a hair in Pennsylvania. He didn’t screech about a stolen election in 2020 because the evidence of fraud was compelling. He did it because screeching about unfairness when he loses a popularity candidate is how he copes with the embarrassment of defeat, nothing more or less.
The 2020 version of “stop the steal” has a gigantic following on the right because Republicans are eager to believe that Democrats are capable of anything, including rigging a national election. The 2016 version didn’t do as well because they’re less eager to believe that Cruz and his “constitutional conservative” fan base were similarly ruthless. Accusing Oz’s opponent, Republican Dave McCormick, of potentially trying to cheat in Pennsylvania resembles 2016 more so than 2020. Except this time Trump risks alienating some of his own fans if he keeps it up.
The “Club for Growth candidate” he mentions is Kathy Barnette, by the way:
Oz leads by less than 2,500 votes with around 30,000 still to be counted, many in counties that have favored McCormick so far. There’s no reason on the merits for him to declare victory. The only reason to do so is to plant a seed in the minds of rubes that somehow the “outcome” is known before it truly is, so that if it ends up changing when the votes are fully counted, Oz can claim that he was cheated after the fact.
Which is precisely what Trump did when he walked out to the podium on Election Night 2020 and declared that he’d won the election. Whatever else one might say about him, he’s a superb con artist. He knows how to plant those seeds.
But if he plants them successfully this time, he risks costing his party a Senate seat — or rather, another Senate seat. “Stop the steal” probably cost the GOP two in the Georgia runoffs last year after Trump spent two months telling Georgia Republicans that their state’s elections are rigged. If McCormick edges out Oz in the final tally (on the strength of mail ballots, no less) and Trump starts whining about cheating, there’s a chance that some Oz and Barnette voters will believe him and will boycott the general election this fall to punish McCormick. It’d be a gift to John Fetterman. It could even tip the majority of the next Senate to Democrats.
Which, again, would be nothing new for Trump.
I’ve said before that I’ll be surprised if he ends up endorsing Brian Kemp in Georgia’s gubernatorial race this fall. Doing so would bruise his ego too much. By this time next week he’ll have been thwarted twice by Kemp, first in 2020 when Kemp refused to meddle in the state’s election to help Trump and again when Kemp beat Trump’s proxy candidate, David Perdue, in this year’s primary. Endorsing Kemp in those circumstances would be tantamount to capitulation by Trump; it’s hard to imagine him doing it even though refusing might lead to a Stacey Abrams victory. I think he’d prefer to see Abrams win than to see Kemp win. In light of his posts this morning, I wonder if he’ll hold the same sort of grudge against Dave McCormick if he edges out Oz, preferring to see the Democrat Fetterman win this fall. I think Trump would have supported Barnette if she had won the primary since she’s a true blue MAGA, but McCormick obviously isn’t. It’ll be hard for Trump to forgive him if he ends up overcoming Trump’s Oz endorsement and prevailing.
So maybe there’ll be no endorsement of McCormick. How could there be if Trump ends up going all-in on the “McCormick cheated” spin once the votes are in? What would Trump say in an endorsement at that point? “I admire how Dave successfully rigged the primary at the expense of my candidate without getting caught”?
Don’t cry for McCormick, though. A Twitter pal noted this afternoon that he helped make this bed. Now he’ll have to lie in it:
Former hedge fund executive David McCormick: “Well, listen, it’s you can’t go across Pennsylvania without hearing over and over again about the broad irregularities in our elections. So the three-day extension of the ballot, the lack of secure ballot boxes, the lack of oversight in many of the precincts of Philadelphia, so the majority of Republican voters in Pennsylvania do not believe in the outcome of the election. That’s a terrible thing. If you’re somebody who served in the military for the specific purpose of making sure that our democracy thrives, that’s a major problem. So we have to fix that and one way to fix that is to have a great senator win in 2022. That makes sure that we have an accurate election in 2024.”
McCormick sowed the wind, playing footsie with Trump voters about their suspicions of election-rigging to ingratiate himself to them. Now let him reap the whirlwind.
I’ll leave you with this morning-after message from Barnette, which starts off cheerily but takes a bit of turn halfway through when the topic of Sean Hannity comes up. Barnette is supposed to be a populist “fighter” but note that she doesn’t have the stones to call out Trump for having spent the last week attacking her. Even though his influence over the party is far greater than Hannity’s.
“Never forget what Sean Hannity did in this race,” says Kathy Barnette. “Almost single-handedly, Sean Hannity sowed seeds of disinformation, flat-out lies, every night for the past five days. And that was just extremely hard to overcome.” pic.twitter.com/ukIXArAJ03
— Holly Otterbein (@hollyotterbein) May 18, 2022