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Why Trump can't stop talking about a favored candidate's defeat

A week later, Trump still wants to talk about his preferred candidate losing in Texas - which reflects his deep fear of lost influence over his party.
Image: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a Trump for President campaign rally in Macon, Ga.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a Trump for President campaign rally in Macon, Ga.Christopher Aluka Berry / Reuters file

Donald Trump last month invested quite a bit of energy into a congressional special election in Texas. The former president had thrown his support behind Susan Wright's Republican candidacy, and as Election Day drew closer, Team Trump seemed awfully eager to carry Wright across the finish line.

Indeed, in the contest's closing days, Trump and his political operation made a late $100,000 ad buy in the district, recorded a robocall from the former president, held two tele-town-hall events, and issued written statements imploring locals to rally behind Wright.

It didn't work. Wright lost by more than six points.

The embarrassment for Trump was immediate, but it was largely a one-day story. At least, it was going to be a one-day story, before the former president decided to keep talking about it.

In the wake of the special election, Trump originally told Axios that he'd actually "won" because Wright did well in the first round of balloting, ahead of last week's runoff. Despite the fact that his candidate was clearly defeated, the former president added, "This is not a loss, again, I don't want to claim it is a loss, this was a win."

He was right, of course, just so long as one radically redefines the meaning of "win" and "lose."

Yesterday, Trump returned to the subject again.

Former President Trump is blaming the loss of a candidate he endorsed in Texas on votes by Democrats in the race.... Now, the former president is arguing that Wright only lost the race because of Democratic voters.

The former president added that the results in Texas were "a big Trump victory," despite the fact that the Trump-backed candidate obviously lost -- an outcome he initially denied, and now blames on Democrats.

At face value, this isn't just pitiful, it's also self-defeating: the sooner he stops talking about his embarrassment, the sooner people will forget about it.

But there's a larger significance to all of this. As we discussed after Susan Wright's loss, Trump desperately needs his endorsement to be powerful and sought after. He recently commented on the Republicans who beg for in-person meetings, where they plead for his electoral support, marveling at his self-professed power.

"We have had so many, and so many are coming in," Trump said. "It's been pretty amazing. You see the numbers. They need the endorsement. I don't say this in a braggadocious way, but if they don't get the endorsement, they don't win."

But as the Texas race showed, sometimes they get the endorsement and lose anyway. Indeed, Wright wasn't the first and almost certainly won't be the last.

This matters to Trump because the power of his endorsement is supposed to be among the most powerful arrows in his quiver. Republicans are supposed to tremble in fear at the very idea of losing favor with him, because his all-powerful endorsement is the key to unlocking electoral success.

And the more GOP officials and candidates notice that the myth isn't quite true, the less they'll feel the need to bend the knee, kiss the ring, and sacrifice their dignity to satisfy the whims of a failed former one-term president.