Counting down …
“Can you believe it? Less than a year,” Donald Trump told a rally in Kentucky this week, looking forward to election 2020.
Not nearly as much as we are, Don.
Tuesday’s voting was only a weenie prologue, although naturally we intend to read as much into the results as is humanly possible. Virginia went a serious shade of blue; the Pennsylvania suburbs started looking distinctly Never Trump, and the Republican governor of Kentucky seems to be out of a job.
That last was certainly embarrassing for Trump, who held a big rally in Lexington on the day before the election, during which he freely admitted that if Gov. Matt Bevin lost, the evil media would say “Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world.”
Well, maybe not the greatest. There was the fall of Troy. The Battle of Waterloo. The 1940 NFL championship game when the Chicago Bears beat the Washington Redskins 73-0. Still, pretty embarrassing.
The margin of victory for Democrat Andy Beshear is small, and Bevin is clearly going to keep battling until the vote counters faint. So it’s very likely that by the time Kentucky works this out, the rest of the country will have forgotten all about it.
Except for the part where Trump encouraged his fans to think the gubernatorial election was all a referendum on him. If you run into any problems this week that send you into a funk, just remind yourself that Donald Trump is feeling worse. I guarantee it will perk you up.
Of course, he’s rebranding. “Won 5 out of 6 elections in Kentucky, including 5 great candidates that I spoke for and introduced last night,” he tweeted. In other words: Hey, I lost the governor, but I saved the agriculture commissioner.
Trump’s supporters began excusing the president’s failure to deliver by suggesting Bevin was the worst candidate since the invention of voting booths. And he does seem to be pretty much a jerk. My favorite anecdote is the time he claimed America was “getting soft” after Kentucky school officials closed classes because of a wind chill forecast of 20 below zero.
“He’s such a pain in the ass, but that’s what you want!” Trump told his crowd.
What’s the glory in rallying the troops for a popular governor? It was Bevin’s awfulness that was supposed to convince the world that Republicans would vote for anybody, as long as he was tied to Trump. And you know that if he had won, we’d be hearing nothing all day from the White House but how Kentuckians really went to the polls to defeat impeachment. Bevin himself urged the people at Trump’s rally to “send a message … that we support the president of the United States.”
Message received, governor.
Besides his attempt to convince the world that he had golden coattails, Trump pretty much gave Kentucky his standard-model rally. He quoted mega-compliments from “the great Lou Dobbs,” the Fox Business talking head who recently appeared to claim Trump had invented Saturday and Sunday. (“Have a great weekend. The president makes such a thing possible for us all.”)
Dobbs, Trump confided to the crowd, said that he was “the greatest president of the history of the country, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.”
Lincoln, Trump added, was a Republican. “We forgot that: Abraham Lincoln.”
Ever since his election, he’s been marveling about the Lincoln factoid. (“We have to build that up a little more.”) Actually, most Americans know that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. But everything about the past comes as a huge surprise to Trump. This is the man who addressed a roomful of guests honoring Women’s History Month and asked if any of them had ever heard of Susan B. Anthony.
There actually were some issues in Tuesday’s elections. Abortion rights advocates in Kentucky argued that part of the revolt against Bevin was due to the passage of a state law banning abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy. In Virginia, where Democrats swept control of state government, one important theme was gun control. (In May, 12 people died in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, and Republican legislators blocked attempts to take up gun legislation.)
Remember when Trump responded to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, by calling for new laws to allow authorities to take guns away from people who were clearly a danger to themselves and others? Those days are gone and — at least in the White House — totally forgotten.
“By the way, you’re going to lose your Second Amendment if you vote with Democrats,” the president told that Lexington rally. “You think I’m kidding? … You will lose your Second Amendment as soon — I’m telling you. As sure as you’re standing here. Is anybody sitting? Nobody ever sits. You can sit if you want. No, just stand. You know what they say in the fake news? Look, you’ve been standing. Nobody sat? I don’t know, isn’t that exciting?”
OK, the last part was sort of just to give you a taste of how his mind works. You’ll have plenty more chances to observe. Remember, we’ve still got a year to go.
Gail Collins is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.