Republicans who had hoped to see Donald Trump re-elected and their hold on the Senate maintained in the November election because of a strong economy are scrambling to come up with a new strategy now that millions are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Writing for the conservative Bulwark, former Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) aide Amanda Carpenter, explained that the GOP leadership has their work cut out for them in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis that may leave hundreds of thousands dead and millions out of work.
As Carpenter explained, Republicans need to walk the fine line between separating themselves from the president — lest he drag their campaigns down — while at the same time not criticizing Trump and risking angering his fans.
“In the span of a few weeks, more than 13,000 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus and 10 million jobs disappeared. Over the last 12 weeks, what President Trump says and does can no longer be brushed off as “Trump being Trump.” His reluctance to listen to experts, to honestly relay data, and to attack those who question his wild assertions isn’t opera buffa anymore. It’s tragedy. People have died because of it. Lives have been ruined,” she wrote. “Yet many incumbent Republicans, seeking to don the political version of PPE, are trying to avoid taking any stances that counter whatever Trump is saying in the moment—let alone criticize him. Instead, they claim that ‘this isn’t a time for politics.'”
“If only that was true,” she dryly added.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already getting a taste of what other Republican might face, writes Carpenter.
“McConnell, who is up for reelection this year, led the effort when he called on his Democratic opponent, Amy McGrath, to stop running political ads because of the coronavirus,” she wrote. “McGrath refused, which was sensible, since McConnell has been a silent accomplice in Donald Trump’s failure to prepare America for the outbreak. It was also sensible because there was no chance that McConnell wouldn’t try to twist the crisis to his own benefit. Which is exactly what he did when he went up with ads depicting himself as being ‘at the center of the battle to rush aid to Americans.'”
According to Carpenter, all the Republicans have left to offer is pointing the finger elsewhere and try to silence their critics.
“A trio of the chamber’s most vulnerable incumbent Republican senators—Martha McSally, Cory Gardner, and Susan Collins—have followed McConnell’s strategy,” she explained. “The playbook is simple: (1) Try to shush critics in the name of ‘keeping politics out of this’ while also (2) Keeping your name in the press with the goodies you’re handing out and (3) Blame anybody but Donald Trump for the predicament the country is in.”
After listing off all three candidates’ weaknesses — one of which is their fear of criticizing Trump as a hail Mary to save their seats — Carpenter said the McConnell playbook may not work in their cases.
“That’s one of the larger corruptions of Trumpism: Even the people who were right have to pretend not to have been, when Trump is wrong,” she wrote before adding, “There is more than enough blame to go around for this disaster. The Chinese government failed to contain the outbreak. But our officials had the opportunity to protect our citizens. You can blame both the Chinese government and America’s executive branch. Including our president.”
“The guy came to power promising to build walls, deport millions, and travel ban his way into putting America First. Instead, the worst outbreak in a century happened on his watch, with thousands dead, millions unemployed, and every single one of our lives disrupted in unprecedented ways,” she continued before concluding, “No one needs a playbook to figure out the politics of that argument. The truth is really darn easy for people to figure out.”
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