You could see this one coming.
President Trump, who’d repeatedly boasted that his electoral track record was a perfect 5-and-oh of Republican wins (if you exclude a congressional race in California) (and a number of state legislative races) (and if you ignore that Republicans won narrow races in places they’d previously won by wide margins), was looking at being on the losing side of the Republican primary in Alabama to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Senate.
At a rally last Friday for his preferred candidate, Luther Strange — Big Luther, Trump called him on Twitter — the president expressed some endorser’s remorse.
“We have to be loyal in life,” he said. “There is something called loyalty, and I might have made a mistake and — I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake. Because if Luther doesn’t win, they’re not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They’re gonna say, ‘Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line.’ ”
On Tuesday, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line.
Strange lost to his opponent, Roy Moore, by a wide margin. Trump had pledged to endorse Moore should he win, and the president did so quickly. Shortly after the race was called, Trump sent a tweet congratulating the victor and encouraging Alabamians to vote for Moore in November. Then he deleted that tweet and revised it slightly: The general election contest against the Democrat is in December.
But that wasn’t all Trump deleted. As The Hill reported, Trump also deleted a number of tweets that he’d sent endorsing Strange in the first place.
This one still exists:
Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
So does this one:
Wow, Senator Luther Strange picked up a lot of additional support since my endorsement. Now in September runoff. Strong on Wall & Crime!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
But, as catalogued by the site Factba.se, tweets with the following thoughts no longer do.
- “Big election tomorrow in the Great State of Alabama. Vote for Senator Luther Strange, tough on crime & border — will never let you down!”
- “Luther Strange has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement. Finish the job — vote today for ‘Big Luther.’”
- “ALABAMA, get out and vote for Luther Strange — he has proven to me that he will never let you down! #MAGA”
The Strange-Moore contest was more strange than expected once Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon left the White House. Back at Breitbart, he made the primary into something of a battle for the soul of Donald Trump, pitting the Trump-who’d-go-along-with-the-establishment-pick (Strange) against the Trump-who-was-a-man-of-the-people (Moore). The race was never really close, which is why Trump was already regretful last week and why Bannon was no doubt comfortable with the fight. After Moore won, Bannon was unabashedly triumphant.
It’s fascinating to consider Trump’s regrets about Strange outside of the context of Trump. Most endorsers offer their support out of the conviction they hold for a candidate’s point of view. Trump seems to have jumped into this thing for some other reason, perhaps that he thought maybe he actually could drag Strange across the line. It wasn’t out of principle, obviously, since he regretted the move even before it was revealed as a losing one. Trump wanted to win, and when it looked like he wouldn’t, he wished he’d endorsed the guy who did.
It’s like his opposition to the Iraq War: At the outset of the war, Trump was a supporter. When the war went south, he changed his tune so completely that he to this day insists he never supported it in the first place.
Strange got Iraq-War’d.
On the off chance that Trump at some point in the future tries to cast doubt on the question: Yes, he supported Luther Strange in the Republican primary in Alabama and, yes, Strange lost. Trump is now 5-and-1 (excluding all of those other exclusions above).
Perhaps Trump just got tired of winning.