Trump lost Kentucky for the Republicans - GulfToday

Trump lost Kentucky for the Republicans

Sean O'Grady

@_SeanOGrady

Associate Editor of the Independent.

Associate Editor of the Independent.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

If past experience is anything to go by, Donald Trump will shortly be tweeting from the comfort of his bathroom to the effect that the soon-to-be-former Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky is a stone cold loser that Trump has never actually met — and who, even if he had met him, would not have been impressed. This, of course, despite the fact that Trump himself turned up in Kentucky on the eve of a rally for his Republican colleague and declared to the audience that seeing Bevin lose to the Democrats “sends a really bad message”, pleading with his supporters, “you can’t let that happen to me!”

Well, they did.

It was a fairly impressive win for the Democrats’ Andy Beshear, who has declared victory though, at the time of writing, his opponent is yet to concede. He’s the son of a previous Democrat governor, Steve Beshear, who Bevin beat in the 2015 contest, and although tight — 49.2 per cent to 48.8 per cent with a 2 per cent poll for a Libertarian — the swing from four years ago was a fairly impressive 4.5 per cent or so.

The embarrassing thing is obviously the way that a personal appeal by no less a figure than the president himself should have been met with such a loud raspberry from Kentuckians — the turnout was a pretty healthy one. If Trump, in other words, was to be on course and likely to win himself a second term in November 2020, then his party really ought to be holding places such as Kentucky, especially after Trump expended so much precious political capital there.

One of the oddities of the Trump phenomenon is that he does have the aura of a winner even when he is losing. The bitterest example of that was the 2016 election itself when, never let it be neglected, he lost the popular vote whilst winning the Electoral College, and even there not overwhelmingly. No complaints there, because America has a Federal Constitution for a reason. But it serves as an example and emblem of that strange Trumpian quality of self belief — a quality that, as we are all aware, can mutate into delusion.

So Trump flopping, even by proxy, is seen as thing of a shock when it should anything but. He has consistently negative approval ratings, after all, and he lags any of his various Democrat opponents in the opinion polls.

Of course they can all be tuned over, and in the crucible of a real contest, as we witnesses in 2016, Trump is a formidable, no holds barred, uncompromising and brutal sort of political brawler.

There is another irony here, because Trump hasn’t been such a failure as president, or at least as bad as his enemies would like to suppose. After all, the US economy is booming. Yet such success as Trump has enjoyed on the economy, on repatriating jobs to America, on building his Mexican wall, and on bringing the troops home from the Middle East, hasn’t been richly rewarded in public sympathy and gratitude.

For a reality TV star who has built much of his business empire on the projection of a certain powerful image, it is that very image — aggressive, childish, sexist, racist, the bragging, the fragile ego, the whole House chaos, the sackings, the scandals, the spats with foreign leaders, the Russian stuff, the impeachment crisis, the international scorn – that seems to be letting him down. Americans don’t seem to be able to link such successes as the administration has had with the president himself. It is as if the policies are succeeding, to the extent that they are, despite Trump’s efforts rather than because of them.

A single gubernatorial contest in one relatively small state doesn’t mean the end of Trump. It does, however, draw some much-needed attention to the fundamental weakness in Trump’s political appeal as an incumbent, as opposed to an insurgent: how little liked and, more crucially, how little respected he is among so many Americans as their head of government and head of state.

The truth is that, outside the base, they probably never liked Trump much. They like him even less now, and they’re not especially impressed by his time in office, whatever his positive achievements.

So long as the Democrats don’t actually scare the voters away, the 2020 presidential contest looks like it is theirs to lose — even for “sleepy” Joe Biden. It is not a good place for a president seeking a second term to find himself a year out from polling day.

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