On Sunday, Washington Post columnist James Hohmann wrote a warning for President Donald Trump: his obsession with his supporters will be his downfall.
The new book Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, revealed a conversation with former Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump during the early days of the 2020 election. According to Barr, if Trump didn't calm down, stop tweeting threats, and quit stoking the base, he was going to lose. Trump claimed he had to look like a fighter to appease his base. While that may have been true, it also drove others away.
"I need my base," Trump said according to the book. "My base wants me to be strong. These are my people."
The election ended exactly as Barr predicted.
It "is the latest reminder of the failure of Trump's base-first strategy — but also how close it came to [work]. A shift of only 43,000 votes across Arizona and two other states could have delivered a second term to Trump," wrote Hohmann.
He went on to attack Barr for trying to "rehabilitate his reputation" after years of protecting Trump and giving oxygen to the worst parts of him.
"The attorney general is supposed to be the people's lawyer, not the president's consigliere, and it was inappropriate for Barr to wade so deeply into the partisan fray," said Hohmann. "But he may have been on target when he told Trump that he was too reliant on the small army of operatives who profit from keeping America's nativist and racist extremes politically restive."
Hohmann noted that Trump was never really a conservative so much as he was a desperate man searching for positions that would make right-wingers happy enough to worship him. The Charlottesville "there are very fine people on both sides" quote from Trump is the perfect example.
Trump's campaign messages weren't tested among the most voters in swing states or even targeted at voters he needed to win over. Instead, they were all about which would get the most applause at his rally. He would work and rework them to get the cheers to be louder and louder. It wasn't a campaign of votes; it was a campaign of love for Trump.
"Months later, the cycle continues. During a meeting this summer at Trump's New Jersey golf resort, pollster John McLaughlin presented the former president with private polling that showed 57 percent of Republicans choosing him from a field of more than a dozen other potential 2024 contenders," wrote Hohmann.
"The more you get attacked, the more your base gets solidified," McLaughlin said, according to Peril.
Then again, if Trump had listened to Barr, Hohmann said that meeting would have been taking place with a president and not a disgraced man on a golf course.