Throughout much of 2016, Donald Trump had an important challenge to overcome. Among his troubles was the fact that Barack Obama was a popular president, leading in a time of low unemployment and low crime, making it difficult for a Republican to make the case for a radical change in the nation's direction.
And so, Trump created an alternate universe that better suited his purposes. How did the GOP candidate respond to low unemployment? By insisting that jobless rate was politically-motivated fiction, cooked up by corrupt officials hiding the truth. At different points in the campaign, Trump publicly argued that the unemployment rate was 20% – or possibly 42% – even as reality pointed to a rate below 5%.
Trump did the same thing when talking about crime rates. The Republican insisted repeatedly that the U.S. murder rate was at a 45-year high, despite the evidence that showed it near a 50-year low. (The Trump campaign ultimately said the FBI might be lying in its crime statistics.)
Watching Trump replace our reality with an alternate universe was, of course, disorienting, which was very likely the point. What we didn't realize at the time, however, is that would become the first page in his playbook on how to win elections.
Virginians will go to the polls today to elect a new governor, and the president desperately hopes former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie prevails. Republicans, however, face a familiar dynamic: the Democratic incumbent enjoys fairly broad support, and Virginia has thrived in recent years.
Naturally, Trump's solution is to once again create an alternate reality. "The state of Virginia economy, under Democrat rule, has been terrible," the president said yesterday. He added this morning that the commonwealth is plagued by "high crime and poor economic performance."
Whether the president understands this or not, he's completely wrong.