Donald Trump’s candidate Luther Strange lost badly in tonight’s Republican primary race for U.S. Senate in Alabama, as expected. Then something unexpected happened: Trump quickly deleted his prior tweets supporting Strange, sending a clear signal that he was trying to distance himself from the debacle. It’s also a sign of what’s about to happen, possibly as soon as tomorrow morning.
As it became clear that Strange was going to lose, there had been some scattered reporting earlier this week that Trump and his team were planning to lay the blame at the feet of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while using it as an excuse to try to oust him. It was McConnell and the GOP leadership who pushed Trump to endorse their preferred candidate Strange, when in reality Trump probably couldn’t have distinguished between Strange and Moore if he’d been picking them out of a lineup.
Trump was pushed into backing a losing horse. And while Strange’s failure serves as evidence of just how little remaining influence Trump seems to have over his own demoralized base, he won’t want to admit that. He’ll want to pin it all on McConnell instead. Trump’s decision to delete his tweets supporting Strange is a sign that he’s preparing to drop the hammer on McConnell. We saw hints of this a month ago, but time it’ll be for real.
If Donald Trump doesn’t even have enough clout left to influence a special election primary race within his own party, it’s difficult to imagine him having the clout to oust the Senate Majority Leader. But there is clearly growing frustration with Mitch McConnell within the ranks of his own party. Republican Senators are now willing to very loudly vote against his toxically hyper-partisan legislation. McConnell is vulnerable, Trump knows it, and he’s going to try to scapegoat him to cover for his own increasing vulnerability.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report