West Virginia: Rumors of Trump’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Trump's demise
Today’s defection of Jim Justice leaves the Democrats with just 15 governorships nationwide. (Twitter)

In the mainstream media, the general consensus is that Donald Trump, little more than six months into his term, is already a lame duck president. In the wake of the failure of the Senate to pass his healthcare reform legislation, the typical media outlets have delighted in playing up Trump’s inability to push forward a legislative agenda. To be certain, some of Trump‘s actions have not helped his case. For example, attacking Mika Brzezinski for her facelift operation seemed beneath the dignity of the Oval Office.

To listen to traditional media outlets, one would think that Trump‘s presidency has been an unmitigated abysmal disaster. However, outside of the Washington-New York-Boston power corridor, the American people have a very different perspective. Trump is hardly the political albatross that his detractors routinely make him out to be, and the prevailing opinion that the Democrats are a shoo-in for winning back Congress in 2018 is likely to waver with time.

Case and point: West Virginia. Democrat Governor Jim Justice announced yesterday, that as of today, he will be a Republican. And the timing of his announcement was the most interesting part of all: he made the decision in conjunction with a Trump visit to the Mountain State. At a Huntington rally with nearly ten thousand Trump supporters, Justice buttered up the president: “This man is a good man. He’s got a backbone. He’s got real ideas. He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia.”

Justice’s defection should certainly be reason for some concern among Democratic leadership and strategists. West Virginia, after all, was once among the most reliably Democratic states in the country. But the mix of cultural conservatism and blue collar working class voters in the state was a perfect set-up for a Trump insurgency-style candidacy. He won a whopping 77% of the vote in the Republican Primary, and carried the state with 69%, among his best performances.

Despite his complete lack of popularity among the cultural, academic, and media elites, Trump is hardly proving to be the political liability that many thought he would. Indeed, the 2016 elections were a resounding repudiation of the Democrats’ economic message. Except for the ultra-blue Pacific Coast and Northeast, and a few traditional Democrat strongholds like Illinois and Minnesota, Trump and down-ballot Republicans won astounding victories throughout the heartland.

I have said it once and I will say it a thousand times more during the course of Trump’s first term. Trump can be his own worst enemy, but he could also prove to be a great president if he realizes that he is the leader of the free world, not a reality TV star. Trump needs to learn to not sweat the small stuff, and focus on the big picture. Be more diplomatic. Be more politic. He can still attack political correctness and the unfair media coverage he receives, but he needs to be cognizant of the way that he is perceived by political moderates. His lack of civility and his retaliatory nature are not helping him.

That being said, if Trump can strengthen his relationship with Republican Congressional leadership and work with them on making his case directly to the American people, bypassing mainstream media outlets who were never going to give him a fair shake anyway, then Trump could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Consider this: with Justice’s defection today, the Democrats hold just 15 governorships nationwide. That is abysmal. Their fundraising numbers are down, and there is no doubt that Democratic Party leadership has reason to be concerned.

2018 features numerous Senate matchups where Democrat incumbents in red and purple states which Trump carried, are up for re-election. In West Virginia, Joe Manchin is certain to be in the hot-seat. He faces a strong challenge from GOP Representative Evan Jenkins, who also switched parties to run for a seat in 2014. He is likely salivating at the prospect of using Manchin’s opposition to Trump’s proposals to paint him as out of touch with the state.

Manchin is that rare species: a Democrat who in many states could easily be a Republican. A true moderate…reasonable, pragmatic, and someone who is actually interested in working across the aisle to get things done. Manchin’s reelection bid will now depend on how successfully he can play the middle: sometimes he will have to toe the party line of a Democratic Senate leadership that increasingly veers hard left. But many times he will seek to forge middle ground as he seeks to show West Virginian voters that he can work with the president.

Yet, American coastal elites should take notice of today’s big news from West Virginia: Rumors of Donald Trump’s demise are greatly exaggerated!

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