Not long after Donald Trump began his post-election press conference, the president did something a little unexpected: he publicly ridiculed a list of losing candidates.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday trashed losing Republican candidates who distanced themselves from him during the midterm elections.
“Mia Love gave me no love, but then she lost,” Trump said at a White House news conference of the Utah Republican who failed in her House re-election bid on Tuesday. “Too bad.”
He listed several other GOP lawmakers he said had rejected his “embrace” before falling to Democratic opponents: Reps. Carlos Curbelo in Florida; Mike Coffman in Colorado; Peter Roskam in Illinois; and Barbara Comstock in Virginia, among them.
Reflecting on the list – which he literally read from prepared notes – the president told reporters, “I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.”
In other words, Trump feels “just fine” about House Republicans losing their seats – and their majority – because these members had the gall to keep their distance from an unpopular and scandal-plagued president.
I’ll confess, I don’t recall ever hearing a president mock members of Congress from his own party after their defeats, but Trump seemed eager to do exactly that, largely as a way to immunize himself from blame. As he sees it, vulnerable House Republicans, many of whom represented districts Hillary Clinton won two years ago, ended up losing because they didn’t tie their fortunes to his presidency.
The idea that these GOP incumbents would’ve lost by larger margins had they cozied up to Trump apparently hasn’t occurred to him.
Of course, the other flaw in the thesis is that plenty of pro-Trump candidates, who welcomed his support and echoed his message, also failed at the ballot box. In Pennsylvania, two Trump-ish candidates – Senate hopeful Lou Barletta and gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner – lost badly in a state the president won two years ago.
In South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, Katie Arrington defeated Rep. Mark Sanford in a Republican primary earlier this year, and she declared after her primary victory, “We are the party of President Donald J. Trump.” Last night, however, Arrington lost to Joe Cunningham (D) in a district Trump won by 11 points.
In fact, while most of the GOP candidates the president endorsed won, 32 of them didn’t.
They won’t receive public mockery from Trump, though. That treatment is reserved for more center-right candidates who lost as part of anti-Trump backlash.
Postscript: Trump pointed to Utah’s Mia Love (R) as a candidate who lost, but it’s worth emphasizing that her race hasn’t yet been formally called. The congresswoman is trailing at this point, but for the president to dismiss her as a loser seemed a little premature.