Donald Trump

Donald Trump, Scaredy-Cat

Why is the president rigging a primary fight he's leading by 70 percentage points?

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"Crooked Hillary," Donald Trump tweeted in November 2017, "bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!" The unusually tight relationship during the 2016 primary between the Democratic National Committee and its presidential front-runner, the president suggested, might be worthy of a Justice Department investigation.

If that were true, then the FBI should have a new case on its hands: the unprecedented collusion between the Republican National Committee and Trump himself.

Clinton, in August 2015, signed a secretive and controversial joint fundraising agreementwith the DNC that gave her the vast bulk of money raised and eventually placed some of the party machinery under her financial control. Trump, on the other hand, hasn't just influenced and benefited from the RNC; he's inhaled it like a cheeseburger.

In December, nearly two years before the 2020 election, the Republican Party and the president's re-election campaign literally merged into a single unit, called Trump Victory, which RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel clucked would be "the biggest, most efficient and unified campaign operation in American history." In January, the party passed a resolution giving the president its "undivided support."

Political party apparatuses are supposed to be impartial arbiters of primary contests, not corner men for the reigning champions. Yet McDaniel at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February boasted that any Republican foolish enough to challenge Trump in the 2020 primaries would "lose horribly," adding this taunt to the Bill Welds of the world: "So have at it, go ahead, waste your money, waste your time and go ahead and lose."

Weld, who officially launched his campaign Monday, called McDaniel's comments at the time "a stunning reversal of past party practice of honoring neutrality in primaries," asking: "What is it they are so afraid of?"

That may be the most puzzling question of all. Trump is clobbering Weld in the polls—85% to 15%, according to a national Emerson survey released this week. Even in Weld's home state of Massachusetts, where he was a popular two-term governor in the 1990s, the president has a gargantuan 82-18 lead.

Approval of Trump among Republicans has stabilized at around 90%, according to Gallup polling, and Robert S. Mueller III's special investigation—which would-be candidates John Kasich and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had been waiting for to help inform their decisions on whether to run—has failed thus far to land a serious blow. Sure, Republican voters may say they want more competition, but when presented with actual names, they tend to jump back into the arms of the party's standard-bearer.

And yet the Trump machine is taking a bazooka to this thumb-wrestling match, inserting Trumpist yes men in regional party leadership positions—including in the crucial early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Some of those apparatchiks have wondered out loud whether the party even should hold primaries next year.

"I've never seen anything like it and I've been involved in the Republican Party for most of my life," Hogan told Politico in February. "It's unprecedented."

Such a cartoonish show of force is clearly designed to scare off potential competitors before they even get in the ring. But like many exaggerated projections of strength, it's giving off the unseemly whiff of flop sweat.

There is a parallel here. Once upon a time, a Republican incumbent president popular within his own party faced minor competition both in early-state GOP primaries and among a rowdy Democratic field. There was some scandal and gross arm-twisting emanating from the White House, though not yet in a seriously prosecutable way; meanwhile the left was flirting more openly with socialism than it had in a generation.

In the end, Richard Nixon would squash the antiwar Californian Pete McCloskey like a bug in New Hampshire, before romping to the kind of general-election landslide that Donald Trump can only dream about. But along the way the president's paranoia, crude habits and questionable taste in personnel—Roger Stone, anyone?—sowed the seeds of his administration's destruction.

It is a time-wasting folly for Democrats to expect some mythical Watergate 2.0 to solve their biggest political problem with a single bang of the gavel. If anything, the analogy is more teachable for Trump himself. It's the smallest men who require the biggest parades, and the organizations they corrupt will be staffed by compromised opportunists.

The president should welcome a political fight—he's certainly better at it right now than any national Republican. But by stacking the deck so grossly in his favor, Trump is making the tacit admission that he just doesn't believe in himself. Be very afraid when the president is scared.

NEXT: Brickbat: CYA

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  1. There is the historical impression that a primary fight disadvantages an incumbent president in the general election.

    There is a big difference between GOP voters saying they want more competition in the abstract, and voters wanting Bill Weld.

    1. Every previous president had a primary opponent including Obama. Readon never called a sitting president w coward before. Weird.

      1. When you play to win the last thing you want is a fair fight.

        Hey Welch, was Norman Schwartzkopf a coward too?

      2. Obama only had a primary opponent in 7 states. For residents of the other 43 he ran unopposed

        1. For his 2012 re-election campaign that is

    2. A primary fight is usually more of a lagging indicator. It indicates that the incumbent Prez has done something to piss off a large portion of the party base – Bush raising taxes into a declining economy and not being obeisant to socons; Carter deregulating and presiding haplessly over a declining economy; LBJ’s Vietnam lies clashing with Tet realities.

      None of that applies to Trump. He hasn’t DONE anything to undermine base support. NeverTrumpers are just in denial about what the GOP is now. It ain’t their party but they’re still crying about it.

    3. Actually, anyone who runs against Trump other than as a trial balloon for 2024, is just deceiving themselves.
      No president in the past three decades – and possibly in the past 200 years – has done a better job.

  2. This country needs more immigration.

    1. Someone’s going to have to pay for all that Medicare and Social Security the Boomers are just starting to use. There aren’t enough Gen Xers and the Millenials don’t seem that interested in productive work…

      1. Yes, spot on!!! As we geezers pile up our gold bars, it is useful to recall that the gold bars will NOT spoon baby food into our mouths at the old folks homes, nor will the gold bars change our bed sheets or wipe our asses. We need PEOPLE to do this for us affordably, and the illegal sub-humans are actually willing and able to WORK for affordable prices!

        1. And don’t forget that the folks who’ve been here illegally for decades will shortly be to old to work, and will have no retirement or Medicare. Wonder who’ll pay for that?

        2. “…the gold bars will NOT spoon baby food into our mouths at the old folks homes,…”

          The gold bars will get you great care if you can spit and shit them on command.

      2. So if we take in members who use a lot of benefits relative to the general population.. we save benefit programs?

        1. The native-born mooch off of the illegal sub-humans who pay into Social Security, but can not benefit, actually. (Yes, I know,that’s just Social Security, and other programs cloud the picture).

          But don’t forget, we tax the illegal sub-humans to make them pay to help prop up Social Security, but they never get to benefit from the taxes that they pay! (In the particular case of SS). See “The Truth About Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes” (in quotes) in your Google search window will take you straight there, hit number one… AKA http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/09/undocumented-immigrants-and-taxes/499604/

        2. It’s Schrodinger’s Immigrant!

          https://i.redd.it/2mywya9xsa011.jpg

          1. Yeah man, which is it, is it a particle or a wave!?!?

            A welfare mooch or a jerbs-thief?!?!?

            I say shuck that fit!!!

    2. Russia needs more walrus

      1. Poon needs some more tang, and artsy needs some more fartsy!

    3. What’s your address? We’ll send them all to YOUR house!

  3. […] Donald Trump, Scaredy-Cat – Reason Trump Donald Trump, Scaredy-Cat  Reason […]

    1. Ooh! Is this some bold, new kind of troll? Or a bold new kind of spam?

      1. They have, foolishly IMO, implemented “trackbacks”.

        I’ve never known them to really improve a site, and at best, they should be segregated from real comments, not mixed in with them.

        And, yes, sometimes they’re nothing more than a new point of entry for spam.

  4. I doubt the handling of party primaries were ever neutral, and political operatives are always sleazy pieces of you-know-what. Trump and his people just aren’t good at or interested in hiding it. Or we’re no longer good at ignoring it.

    1. “Why is the president rigging a primary fight he’s leading by 70 percentage points?”

      Short answer: “The wicked flee though no one pursues…”
      Proverbs 28:1

  5. So, the party of the incumbent president with strong intra-party support is discouraging any primaries against him? Sounds normal to me. A primary challenge right now would probably do more to hurt Republicans in 2020. I could understand if there was a primary challenge from the right as that would at least bolster interest from conservatives down ballot. When the challengers are people like Weld and others more in line with the Democrat party all it serves to do is slime current Republicans.

    1. Donald Trump is a Democrat. A 1980s style Democrat, but a democrat all the same.

    2. Yup, it is pretty much normal. Basically all incumbent Presidents running for reelection do this, unless they’re significantly unpopular in their own party. (Which Trump isn’t, even if the tiny minority of Republicans who don’t like him are noisy.)

      What distinguishes this from Hillary’s case is that Hillary wasn’t the incumbent, and the arrangement was secret.

  6. He’s also a big bully.

    So there !!!

  7. He doesn’t want to draw attention away from the Dem clown car.

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  9. Matt and Bill-Weld, sittin’ in a tree…

    1. Behind that stupid-looking Howdy Doody face and completely fake moderate demeanor lies a real mean son of a bitch.

  10. Trump knows that polls mean nothing (he is the living embodiment of that philosophy) and he’s showing the ol’ razzle dazzle.

  11. Political party apparatuses are supposed to be impartial arbiters of primary contests, not corner men for the reigning champions.

    Why? The goal is to win. If that’s the winning strategy, then do it.

    1. Yeah, that’s pretty ignorant. That may be how things would work in Welch’s fantasy political system, but what Trump and the RNC are doing is actually SOP, and has been all my life.

      Where did Welch grow up, Earth-2?

      1. Sorry, your question assume fact not in evidence.

    2. “Why? The goal is to win. If that’s the winning strategy, then do it.”

      Yeah, it seems Welch expects Trump to take a chance on losing when he can simply lock it up.
      Probably a good idea to play poker with Welch; you could make some money.

  12. re: “Political party apparatuses are supposed to be impartial arbiters of primary contests”

    Says who? Nothing in the history of political parties supports that statement. Nor is there anything that I’m aware of in law or in the parties’ charters putting any such obligation on them.

    I am not a fan of political parties. I take the Washingtonian view that they are a necessary evil. But I try not to harbor any illusions about the rules they operate under.

  13. unprecedented!

  14. Matt Welch and Bill Weld are the only two people in America who care about this.

    1. Welch is so unhinged he would kill his own mother if he thought it would help get Trump removed.

  15. Every incumbent should really set up party apparatus so they may lose. That would make so much sense to those who wish fairness. Well! Life isn’t fair. Never has been or will be. If there are criminal charges, name them and proceed!!
    I didn’t vote for Trump, but he’s king of the RNC mountain now.

  16. If that were true, then the FBI should have a new case on its hands: the unprecedentedcollusion between the Republican National Committee and Trump himself.

    Matt Welch making Donald Trump look like the better option. Again.

  17. Scaredy-cat?

    In a headline? Over a story that has actual links to things done long before Weld announced?

    Sad.

    Know what’s sadder?

    Welch thinking there’s a primary contender. The Nevertrumpers are disgusted by him. The GOP establishment is disgusted by him. He announced his ‘candidacy’ on CNN, for the love of all the gods–CNN. A Republican? Announcing on CNN? Someone stick a drill up your nose, Matt?

    Sad.

  18. Matt Welch gives Trump career advice. Let that one sink in…

    1. Matt Welch is deeply concerned about Donald Trump’s well being.

      CONCERNED I tell you!

  19. “But by stacking the deck so grossly in his favor, Trump is making the tacit admission that he just doesn’t believe in himself.”

    Uh, no. Not at all. Perhaps if Bill Weld wasn’t such a capricious troll and un-serious candidate, the RNC might treat him better.

  20. I’m sorry, what?

  21. I seriously don’t understand why Matt Welch continues to support Bill Weld. I despise the man, in part because of how he used the LP. He kept me from voting for anyone in the last presidential election.

    1. All enemies of Orange Man are friends of Welch.

  22. Comments are closed.

  23. I find it had to believe 15% of people even know who Bill Weld is.

  24. Wasn’t Weld supposed to be a Libertarian just 3 years ago? What’s he doing in a Republican primary?

    Why should Republicans scuttle their successful operation of So Much Winning for a Libertarian interloper?

    “the unprecedented collusion between the Republican National Committee and Trump himself”

    Never before have people in a political party “colluded” to win elections!

    Once upon a time, I would have expected that to be Idiot Hot Take of the Year. But between Boehm and Suderman, I don’t know if it can even win the day.

    Today puts to bed the myth of Reason as anything but a rather idiotic left wing rag. As low as my opinion of Reason generally is, I’m genuinely surprised at the hysterical TDS on display today. Just too dumb.

  25. […] Fourth, the Republican Establishment is working hard to crush any attempt at a primary challenge to Trump. For instance, GOP leaders are inserting “Trumpist yes men in regional party leadership positions—including in the crucial early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” Reason’s Matt Welch observes. […]

  26. […] the political landscape, giving them an opening against an otherwise overwhelming favorite busy stacking his party’s deck. Well, so much for that. The official Hogan position these days is “seriously […]

  27. […] the political landscape, giving them an opening against an otherwise overwhelming favorite busy stacking his party’s deck. Well, so much for that. The official Hogan position these days is “seriously […]

  28. […] the political landscape, giving them an opening against an otherwise overwhelming favorite busy stacking his party’s deck. Well, so much for that. The official Hogan position these days is “seriously […]

  29. […] to disband its debate committee, an explicit signal that the traditionally impartial body is not interested in officiating a primary challenge against President Donald Trump. Incumbent presidents will […]

  30. […] to disband its debate committee, an explicit signal that the traditionally impartial body is not interested in officiating a primary challenge against President Donald Trump. Incumbent presidents will […]

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