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Trump Losing the General Election?

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By: Jeffrey Blehar – nationalreview.com

Yesterday I wrote that one of the most unfortunate things about speaking on Donald Trump’s behalf — either professionally or freelance — is that he will inevitably and almost immediately sandbag you, saw off the limb you foolishly climbed out on in advance, or blurt out something self-defeatingly stupid. But by the same token, boy is it ever great to be a Trump skeptic, because the opposite holds true: I often get to see my arguments spectacularly confirmed in public, near-instantaneously.

So here we are again. Recall my argument: The true source of Trump’s intemperate rage on primary night was his realization not only that (1) Nikki Haley was not going to meekly fold her tent and yield to the inevitable as had Ron DeSantis, but that (2) there remain enough GOP voters behind her longshot campaign who are still unreconciled to him that it threatens his position in the general election. It was not a popular argument with some people, so it was gratifying when hours later Trump went a-Truthing on his personal social-media fansite and more or less confirmed it, while also confirming that he is always his own worst enemy.

Here is the full blurt (with emphasis added):

Nikki “Birdbrain” Haley is very bad for the Republican Party and, indeed, our Country. Her False Statements, Derogatory Comments, and Humiliating Public Loss, is demeaning to True American Patriots. Her anger should be aimed at her Third Rate Political Consultants and, more importantly, Crooked Joe Biden and those that are destroying our Country – NOT THE PEOPLE WHO WILL SAVE IT. I knew Nikki well, she was average at best, is not the one to take on World Leaders, and she never did. That was up to me, and that is why they respected the United States. When I ran for Office and won, I noticed that the losing Candidate’s “Donors” would immediately come to me, and want to “help out.” This is standard in Politics, but no longer with me. Anybody that makes a “Contribution” to Birdbrain, from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp. We don’t want them, and will not accept them, because we Put America First, and ALWAYS WILL!

Donald Trump Truth Social 08:49 PM EST 01/24/24

Sometimes when Trump tweets (or “truths”) you get the sense that a staffer is writing and posting the material for him — it doesn’t quite have his normal rhetorical “feel.” This one, though, is clearly his, all the way down to the punctuation and grammatical errors. And boy is he ever still angry about Nikki Haley’s refusal to leave the race, and what her remaining pool of voters represents for his prospects in November.

First, appreciate what Trump is doing here as an instrumental matter: He is making it as explicit as possible that, should he triumph in the presidential election, anyone who stands with Haley “from this moment forth” (note the unusually careful wording) is permanently on the outs. It’s a standard hardball negotiation technique, both in business and politics — and a quintessentially Trumpian one as well — and will of course be spun by Trump’s base as yet more confirmation of his “man of the people” bona fides: He doesn’t want that grubby Haley donor money! He doesn’t need it! He refuses to be tainted by association with these swamp creatures! (Unless they immediately switch their loyalties to him, that is.)

There are two problems with this. One is that such a tactic is only effectively executed from a position of strength. And while Trump’s strength within the Republican primary electorate is indeed nearly impregnable, his prospects in the general look a good deal hazier (indeed, to those who read polls carefully and understand the rhythms of presidential cycles, increasingly grim). Signing on with Trump is a gamble — one that implicitly suggests his intention to carry on even in defeat as the “MAGA camp” kingmaker — and while he is the only game in town between now and November 2024, beyond that? Well . . . desperate gamblers often make poor bets.

The other problem is also pretty obvious: A fantastic way to repel actual voters is by telling them you don’t want their support. I can already predict the counterargument: “He’s only talking about the donors! You know, the sinister globalist moneymen!” Folks, many more people than that have made donations to Nikki Haley, and preemptively kicking them out of your coalition is a dumb thing to publicly broadcast. But that’s beside the point: For people who read this sort of ranting, the takeaway isn’t the idea that Trump is talking only to the Donor Class, or even the average Jane who happened to donate $5 to Haley’s campaign after New Hampshire. Rather, they understand it, regardless of attempts to cavil technically, as applying to all of her voters and all those unpersuaded by him. “You’re not welcome back and we won’t accept you.”

Don’t be surprised when enough of those voters to make a difference take him up on the offer in the general election. For every big moneyman who cowers in fear over Trump’s threats, a thousand more persuadable voters think to themselves (in the words of the classic line that works as the caption for all New Yorker cartoons) “Christ! What an a**hole!” Calling Haley “Birdbrain” at every opportunity — Trump’s curiously unimaginative new attempt at creating a viral insult, unlinked to any discernible trait of hers other than perhaps her being a female — is also another fantastic way to make a positive impression on her voters, or educated voters at all for that matter. I am an eternal pessimist, so I can well imagine a future where Nikki Haley is standing onstage with Donald Trump and limply endorsing him; such are the degradations of politics. But if that happens, many of her voters — who would have supported almost anyone else but Donald Trump in November — will fail to follow along. And it will not be their fault for leaving, not after being told they aren’t needed.

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Source: Trump Is Winning the Primary, Losing the General | National Review