When a game is put out of reach in the fourth quarter, Packers football broadcaster Wayne Larrivee likes to close it out with, “And there’s your dagger!” Unfortunately, too often this season the Pack has been on the pointed end of the knife.
But, to borrow Larrivee’s phrase, was last night the dagger for Donald Trump’s political career? His chosen candidate, Herschel Walker, lost to Sen. Raphael Warnock and the game wasn’t close. Warnock won by almost 100,000 votes. What did Walker in was a poor performance in Georgia’s Republican suburbs. It’s likely that college educated suburbanites, who never liked Trump anyway, decided to sit it out or even vote for Warnock now that Senate control wasn’t at issue. And this is a state where the Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who stood up to Trump, easily defeated national Democratic star Stacey Abrams. So, there’s at least a fair chance that, without Trump pushing Walker on his party and contributing to GOP losses in other Senate contests this fall, the Republicans would be back in the majority there instead of two seats out.
Speaking of this fall, Trump got toasted. The red wave washed harmlessly ashore mostly because Trumpy candidates, obsessed with relitigating the 2020 election, got creamed.
Then there’s Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence. They continue their march toward a presidential bid despite Trump’s taunts and insults. There’s no question that the party establishment wants Trump out of the picture. They see him as a drag on their chances in 2024. If Trump were a stock, he would have been at 1,000 on November 1st and today he’s selling at 100.
Now, I’ve counted out Trump before. I thought he was joke as he descended his golden escalator to announce his bizarre candidacy for 2016. I thought he ended his campaign when he mocked the late war hero John McCain when Trump himself got out of the draft for alleged “bone spurs.” I thought he was history after the Access Hollywood tape. Then I thought his incitement of a riot to overturn a freely elected government would be enough to end him as a political force. Kevin McCarthy even said at the time, “I’m done with him.” Then he went to Mar a Lago and kissed the ring and asked for forgiveness.
So, why would this time be any different? Because it’s all about winning elections. What has happened in each case until now is that the Trump base has risen up. Each transgression has actually bolstered Trump’s image for them. He’s the bad boy. The guy who says outrageous stuff and never, ever apologizes. And Republican pols and operatives know they need those votes.
Two things are different now. First, it’s clear that Trump not only can’t deliver, he’s actually costing Republicans seats. And second, DeSantis especially is creating a viable alternative.
There is an argument to be considered that this is the worst possible thing for the Democrats. Nobody turns out the Democratic base or helps win over independents for the blue team like Donald Trump. And Trump’s saving grace is that he’s an absolute idiot. Ron DeSantis won’t inspire Democrats quite like Trump and he likely won’t turn off suburban voters or independents. Frankly, in that sense, DeSantis is a lot more dangerous as a politician.
But I have some faith that DeSantis is just a conservative with whom I disagree as opposed to a quasi-fascist who wants to destroy American democracy. And, by the way, Trump’s assertion this week that the Constitution should be suspended so that he can be reinstated came off as pathetic and desperate, where it once would have presented a clear and present danger.
So, did Herschel Walker just scamper into the wrong end zone and deliver the dagger to Trump? I gotta like those chances.