In the early fall, ahead of Alabama’s Republican primary in its Senate special election, Donald Trump went all out for appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R). The president endorsed him, tweeted about him, encouraged the public to watch his Fox News appearances, dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to campaign for him, recorded a robocall for him, and even headlined a rally for him in Alabama.
Trump left no doubt: Luther Strange was the White House’s guy. It was therefore a little embarrassing for the president when Alabama Republicans ignored Trump’s advice and backed Roy Moore. Trump gambled and lost.
And then he did it again.
Alabama Democrat Doug Jones’ shocking win in the Senate race Tuesday means President Donald Trump is 0 for 2 in the traditionally deep-red state.
Yes, Trump endorsed not one but two Republican candidates who ultimately lost their races.
It would’ve been easy for the president to avoid this second embarrassment. Indeed, once Moore confronted allegations of sexual misconduct, the White House initially distanced itself from the right-wing Alabama candidate.
But Trump couldn’t help himself. The president embraced Moore’s candidacy and was all set to take credit for his victory – right up until Alabama elected a Democrat to the seat.
Campaigning for Strange in September, Trump told locals, “I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake.” I’ll be honest, too: he might have made the same mistake twice.
For his part, after spending weeks boosting Roy Moore and condemning Doug Jones, Trump responded to the results by telling everyone how right he was: “The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”
First, Strange’s numbers didn’t go up after receiving Trump’s endorsement. Second, when your chosen candidate loses – twice – you don’t get to brag about how right you were. And third, Roy Moore was running in one of the nation’s reddest states, which means “the deck” was stacked in his favor, not against him.
Or put another way, the president appears to have no idea what he’s talking about.
The larger takeaway, however, isn’t just to point and laugh at the president’s foibles. Trump’s failures in Alabama – a state he won last year by 28 points – are likely to have a ripple effect in Republican politics.
After all, as GOP lawmakers in Congress generally vote in lock-step in support of the White House’s wish list, Republicans have now received fresh evidence that Trump can’t save their careers, even in the reddest of red states.
This president is suddenly weaker now than he was 24 hours ago. As one senior administration official put it, Doug Jones’ victory “is a big black eye for the president.”