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Most of us have bombed an assignment, whether it’s a spelling test we forgot to cram in in elementary school, a college exam we just didn’t understand, or a work project with a deadline we missed until it was too late. Most of us slip away, promising to do better next time and hoping it doesn’t define us.
Not Donald Trump.
On Tuesday night, the former president stood at the front of what is now his finished classroom at Mar-a-Lago and made it official what he had been irritation for the month. The twice impeached provocateur whose last days in office inspired crowd to besiege US Capitol in an attempt to reverse his 2020 loss, he will try again in 2024. And judging by his rhetoric and tone, he will run the same campaign as before – one that provided he loser. After all, any change will require an admission that the race he ran in 2020 was a dud.
Put another way: Trump is the student who wants a chance to retake a test he failed, but has no plans to read, review the study guides, or even bring a pencil. In Trump’s mind, instinct holds the answers, even if the red-pen proctors—in this case, the American electorate—have a different barometer of success in mind. With characteristic bravado, Trump opines that if he can just find a different teaching assistant who falls for his charm, he can cross the finish line with the same answers but a more marketable edge.
This strategy has a number of flaws, not least that many of the leaders of the Republican Party mistake him for the election last Tuesday lost in an environment this must have favored The Republican Party. A defiant Trump insisted on Wednesday that he had 232 wins and a relatively paltry 22 losses. Left unsaid? Trump’s hand-picked candidates for gigs as senators from Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Hampshire and Nevada; Governor of Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; and the secretaries of state in Wisconsin and Arizona all lost races. And most of the victories Trump takes credit for would have happened without his approval. Around DC, the ongoing a joke was that Trump nominated the winning dog catchers but not the actual lawmakers.
But this is classic Trump. Ann result it can still be a victory as long as it can convince the public that the outcome is exactly as planned. And as he stood in his ballroom in Palm Beach, Fla., under chandeliers and lights, the New York advertiser said Republicans were wrong not to say that a majority in the House of Representatives is the winning outcome all along.
“We took over Congress,” Trump whispered, though mathematics was still out at that hour. “I told them, I said, if you just maintain a slightly lower standard, you’ll have a big win. … If you win by two seats, be happy.”
For anyone who covered Ever since Trump descended the golden escalator into the lobby of Trump Tower in 2015 for a gut-wrenching speech that set the tone for his entire campaign and presidency, Tuesday night’s rhetoric was as expected. There were rifts China and a border wall“drenched in blood.” streets of our once great cities” and Democrats’ weak on crime posevolley againstfake news”, although he insisted he would not use that insult on such an “elegant evening”. It was a set of performances aimed at his Make America Great Again base, loaded with malice toward immigrant caravans carrying “savages,” contempt for educators building transgender inclusive spaces students and those from a historically disadvantaged position, and drug dealers.
But a lot has changed since his first national performance. He, his family and his companies face multiple criminal and civil lawsuits investigations— including one entry classified documents allegedly unearthed from the same private club where Trump chose to launch his own comeback Tuesday night. But, true to form, Trump mocked the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago: “I’m a victim. Let me tell you,” Trump said, returning to his favorite Soviet-era tactic what about that. “The attack on a very beautiful house that is right here, the attack on Mar-a-Lago. Think about it. I said, why didn’t you break into Bush’s house? Why didn’t you attack Clinton? 32,000 emails! Why didn’t you do Obama who took a lot with him? (Hint: Trump doesn’t i know what he is talking about or not care that these sideshows are not true.)
Trump may have been right when he said he was the only Republican who could beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. But that test has long since passed, and Trump has shown that he simply cannot handle Joe Biden, who is still narration his aides and reporters to expect an eventual 2024 campaign. Republicans aren’t exactly willing to bet that Trump will take the time to learn enough for his next test, especially since he’s barely changed his slate since 2016 in 2020 or even 2022.
Republicans suffered losses in 2018, 2020, and now 2022 under Trump. The only major Republican victory in 2021 came from Republican Glenn Youngkin, a figure who found a way to embrace Trumpism but distance himself from Trump himself. Youngkin, of course, is considering a run for himself in 2024, as are a number of governors — including Trump’s main threat, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Ask anyone who’s spent time covering Republican rallies this cycle, and there’s admiration for Trump in the crowds, but not necessarily an appetite for returning to his baggage. Instead, people waiting hours to hear from candidates in states like Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin say they want to see DeSantis, a Trump-style candidate without the headaches of Trump himself. You can love his moxie without having to apologize when he goes too far over his skis and snowballs down the mountain.
Still, failure is not in Trump’s vocabulary. But the cleverness is. Just as he assumed his predecessors were involved in the same crimes the FBI is investigating in Trump’s orbit, the former president used his own campaign launch event — one where he had absolute control over the words coming out of his mouth. — to suggest that China had stepped in to help Biden. “A lot of people think that’s why China played a very active role in the 2020 election,” Trump said. “I’m just sayin’, just sayin’. I’m sure that didn’t happen.” It’s the type of overreach that has many Republicans questioning whether they really need to muzzle themselves for another two or even six years.
A sharp tongue and smooth style certainly helped Trump win an improbable race in 2016 and keep him close in 2020. But Republicans haven’t seen him learn any new tricks, and with 2024 approaching, not even an early showing to schedule his classes, it might not be enough if he doesn’t actually do his homework. And judging by his all-too-familiar comeback monologue, Trump hasn’t spent any time over the past two years thinking about how he might fill out the exam book differently this time around.
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