It should have been a layup, really. So few people turn out in special elections to begin with, let alone primary races in special elections, that Donald Trump only needed to drive a few people to the polls in order to ensure that his preferred candidate Luther Strange won. Trump went the extra mile. He tweeted about Strange obsessively. He traveled to Alabama to campaign for him. Not only did Trump miss the layup, he landed flat on his back with the basketball hoop lying on top of him.
How could Trump have, at the risk of mixing sports metaphors, swung and missed so badly? Alabama is the epicenter of Trump’s support base, no less. But the old adage has turned out to be as true as ever: when you’re a popular president, you can do anything you want, and when you’re an unpopular president, you can’t do anything.
Numerically speaking, Trump’s approval rating isn’t any lower now than it was a month or two ago. But that simply means that the people on the fence about him haven’t crossed the threshold of no longer supporting him at all. What we’re seeing now, and seeing rather clearly, is that Trump’s support among his supporters is softening. His remaining supporters can no longer be bothered to even so much as show up and vote in a primary race at his behest. They’re no longer willing to lift a finger for him, and there’s a reason for it: he’s a failure.
Trump’s base may still believe in what he’s selling, but they’re no longer so willing to believe in his ability to sell it. He’s been in office for eight months, and he hasn’t come through on nearly anything. His Obamacare repeal is a failure. His wall doesn’t exist. He promised these things would happen day one. Even his fans can see that he’s failing at this. It’s part of why he couldn’t motivate them to go vote yesterday. He’s simply out of gas.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report