Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Three quick observations on Donald Trump's not so good Saturday night

Interesting to compare this to the reception they gave RFK jr.

Some observers thought it went great, such as this Fox contributor.

 "The enthusiasm of the crowd"

Here's the CNN account:

Trump loudly booed at Libertarian convention when he asks attendees to ‘nominate me or at least vote for me’ 

... and here's how it was featured on the NYT site.

It didn't make the front page either. They did run an article... on A15, which is a good lead-in for my first observation.

1. Much of the "respectable" press, particularly the New York Times, is reluctant to pile onto an embarrassing story about Republicans. We won't go into the underlying causes – – God knows we been into that enough times already – – but the end result is often interesting and even important stories getting buried. This story is certainly entertaining, but is it important? Well that depends on...

2. How is the story of RFK Jr and the anti-VAX movement going to play out? This is why we've spent the past two or three years hammering home the importance of feral disinformation. What started out as an attempt from Trump and his supporters to minimize the political fallout of the pandemic has evolved into a political force that no one, least of all its creators, can control. Vaccines and anti-covid measures were arguably the one issue on which DeSantis was able to successfully attack Trump from the right.

We have no way of knowing how big the impact of this issue is going to be or even which direction it's going to break. It is possible that antiscience fringe liberals will go with RFK while like-minded conservatives will come back to Trump. It's possible that the anti-VAX crowd, which is disproportionately Republican, will break for RFK along party lines which would inflict considerably more damage on Trump than on Biden. It's possible that the whole thing will turn out to be a nothing-burger. Nobody knows and anyone who tells you that they do should not be trusted, but we can say that the potential impact could be enough to swing a close election under the right circumstances.

3. And what effect will this have on Trump and his campaign? Lots of moving parts on this one. As we have mentioned before, Trump has neither money nor surrogate, and his old go to, earned media, has become a decidedly mixed bag to say the least. Trump can't rely on ads and he can't send his running mate out on the campaign trail. His only real option to advance his message and shape the narrative is personal appearances, and yet, unless I forgot one, in the past month or so he has been exactly one day campaigning in swing states (his recent stop in NC didn't seem to include any events beyond waving). Since that day, he has given speeches in New Jersey, New York, and Texas. There were places he badly needed to be last Saturday.

The decision to appear at the libertarian conference (not to mention the considerable albeit failed effort to game the event) indicated that the campaign is worried about at least some of the third-party candidates taking support away from Trump, a notion further supported by the increasingly virulent attacks that he has been making on RFK.

If the objective was to shore up support among libertarians and the anti-VAX crowd, it appears to have been not only a failure, but a costly one in terms of embarrassment, opportunity cost, and wear and tear. Donald Trump is under a tremendous amount of stress and we have numerous anecdotes and indications that it is getting to him. What effect might this have on the election? There's really no telling. We are, once again, way out of the range of observed data.

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