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How does DeSantis-Kemp sound? Lousy, if you ask Trump

Image via Unsplash.

By Tom Baxter

At the very last minute, begrudgingly no doubt, former President Donald Trump endorsed Brian Kemp, the governor he’d vowed to bring down, including him in a list of his recommendations at a rally in Ohio Monday night.

That, in a nutshell, is the story of this election.

Trump’s fleeting endorsement was as close as he’ll ever come to acknowledging that Kemp got the better of him, but the results the next day were ample evidence. On a day when the Republicans Trump endorsed in governor’s races got trounced in most states, Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams as easily as he defeated Trump’s candidate, David Perdue, in this year’s Republican primary.

It was Trump who got Herschel Walker into the U.S. Senate race, but it shouldn’t be hard to figure out whether Walker needs Kemp or Trump to campaign with him in his runoff against Raphael Warnock.

In the first buzz of Wednesday morning, with a lot of important races around the country still to be settled, the consensus among relieved Democrats and stunned Republicans was that the highly anticipated “red wave” was mostly a wash.

But the perception that a big Republican wave was coming was largely due to the lazy way we in the media have covered this election. We relied too much on polling which missed a lot about the dynamics of this election until exit polling made it clear.

When inflation is making it hard for voters to pay the bills, they’re going to say the economy is their biggest concern. That doesn’t necessarily mean that an economy in which there are two jobs for everyone looking for one is going to have a catastrophic impact on an election. The Kansas abortion referendum earlier this year should have been a signal that the issue might be stronger than it was showing in the polls, but it was largely ignored.

The larger story from this muddled election is the growing inability of either party to assemble for their candidates the kind of majorities by which all kinds of referendum questions routinely are approved by voters.

Democrats have been congratulating themselves for turning back the “red wave,” but they may have achieved the best results for the worst campaign strategy in memory. Right from the title of the bill, the Democrats bungled the message on the Inflation Reduction Act. You wonder what might have happened if the national party had paid more attention to the North Carolina Senate race. And sooner or later, Democrats are going to have to come to terms with the way the candidates who raised the greatest cash advantage over their opponents often deliver the most disappointing results.

Often that’s because these candidates are taking on the toughest challenges, and throwing a wide net. But you have to wonder about a system in which registered Democrats on Long Island were receiving fundraising mail from Abrams for a race in Georgia. The liberal activist Michael Moore wrote shortly before the end of the campaign that when he predicted, accurately, that there wasn’t going to be a Democratic bloodbath, some Democrats complained to him that he was hurting their fundraising.

The Republicans have another kind of money problem. Trump. In fairness, the quarter-billion he’s raised since leaving office wouldn’t all have gone to Republicans if he hadn’t been around, but his money has done little for the GOP and his candidates have done less.

Impressive as was Kemp’s victory in Georgia, the Republican winner of the night was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — or DeSanctimonious as Trump derisively referred to him last weekend. He blew away former governor and congressman Charlie Christ, easily exceeding his pre-election poll numbers. With Trump under imminent threat of indictment and facing the blame for his candidates’ poor showings, DeSantis is peaking at the right time to make a serious presidential bid.

Which gets you thinking. Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Democrats from neighboring states, broke precedent in 1992 when they became a presidential ticket. It worked. You know already that DeSantis and Kemp have one big thing in common, politically. Donald Trump doesn’t like either one of them.

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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