At a “town hall” event on Thursday night hosted by his most obsequious interviewer, Fox News star Sean Hannity, Donald Trump struggled with the simplest questions: What did he want to accomplish in a second term?
The President had no response. And the labyrinthine response he offered raised the specter that there really is no agenda for the second term.
That is not true. The President and his administration have been drawing up plans on what to prioritize, should they beat former Vice President Joe Biden. Half a dozen informed sources (administration officials, campaign aides, and people close to President Trump) tell The Daily Beast that planning has long been underway for possible 2021 policy activities. But a predominant interest that fueling Trump’s desire for another four years is not ideological. It is reputational.
Two of those sources said that one of the president’s real motivations for running is simply to avoid embarrassment. He does not want to be humiliated by the title of “one-term president.”
“The President has told me [on multiple occasions] he’s determined not to be a term, and says history remembers them forever as ‘losers,’ ”said a former senior Trump administration official. “A lot of this is about his legacy and how he will be remembered. And if he loses, I don’t think he will win [at the hands of] Biden, of all possible people, lightly.
Another person familiar with the president’s private comments said he recalled Trump making similar comments since late 2018. Trump, the source said, specifically mentioned former President Jimmy Carter as an example of a modern political “loser” and how “I never want be that guy, “said the source, paraphrasing Trump.
All politicians, to some extent, are motivated by the desire to win office. But Trump stands out for the degree to which selfishness itself is the main incentive for much of what he does.
All of which does not mean that he and his advisers have no other interests in mind as they seek reelection. In recent months, the president and administration have discussed plans to continue piling the judiciary with conservative judges, expanding the conservative majority in the Supreme Court (should the possibility of another vacancy or other vacancies occur), cutting taxes and more by reducing both legal and illegal immigration numbers.
“[The president] I drew up a plan on immigration law reform … which I worked on [two years ago]. That would be a real achievement for Trump if he is reelected. I really would have some degree of hope that that could be done. Many of the ideas in the reform bill that were worked out, Democrats have accepted in the past, “Stephen Moore, a conservative economist at the Heritage Foundation who has advised Trump for years, said in a brief interview on Friday.
“There would also be a huge push to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent,” added Moore, recalling that in private conversations with the president, Trump has been emphatic that cutting taxes again would be a priority for a second term. “It is an important part of his legacy. He’s 100 percent committed to making them permanent, “said Moore.
Beyond the standard conservative fair, Trump and his team have also repeatedly spoken about using the second term to finally catch their white whale, one they have not been so successful at achieving which has become a recurring point on the wing. west: a major investment in infrastructure.
“‘Infrastructure Week’ never ends,” joked a senior White House official.
Advisers acknowledge that any Trump second-term agenda would be seriously complicated by two main components: the lingering effects of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 120,000 lives in the United States and torpedoed the American economy; and the probability of Democratic control by one, or perhaps two, houses of Congress. In short, reelection would come with a demand to repair the damage caused by the pandemic and the longer partisan disputes and clashes that produce few major legislative victories.
But to get to that point, Trump must win first. And not all Republicans working to re-elect the President believe he has made a consistent or winning sales presentation for voters, or even believes he has been correctly defined as a candidate. As poll after poll has recently shown that the president follows Biden dramatically nationally and in critical states, Trump has relied heavily on campaign aides and political lieutenants to help assure him that everything is fine, even if he doesn’t. it is so.
“From May to Election Day in 2016, there are [are] 173 national polls on the Real Clear Politics website, ”John McLaughlin, one of Trump’s top pollsters, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday, echoing the arguments he has made directly to the president. “Only 13 beat Trump. On election day 10 of the last 11 lost him and gave him only 164 electoral votes. It is deja vu again. The same surveys. Same results Same message They just don’t want the president re-elected. “
However, others in Trump’s orbit freely admit that the real hurdle at the moment for his reelection is not the media, pollsters, or even Democrats. It’s Donald J. Trump.
Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican strategist who leads the pro-Trump group Great America PAC, was highly critical of the relaunch of the President’s campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma, calling last week’s rally a clear “disaster” . On Friday afternoon, Rollins said that in order for Trump to win, he now has to “present his plans for what he will do in a second term and where the country will lead.” Obviously, he’s not there right now. “
“And he should get there,” added the strategist bluntly. “I don’t want to talk about the past. I don’t care what Biden did 40 years ago. I care what Biden can do as president, especially if he has a [Democratic] Camera and Senate … The president likes to attack, he likes to shoot his Twitter gun and he likes to hit people. But right now, polls have given him where his goals are and where he needs to go. “
Several Trump aides have long said that if the president refines his message and stops running on strange and damaging tangents, he would have a good chance of victory. However, several of them privately acknowledge that this president’s apparent inability to stop being consumed by savage personal grievances and minor fights has continued to hamper his chances.
“Before the booming economy was artificially disrupted by an unprecedented pandemic, President Trump’s pro-growth policies, tax cuts and deregulation achieved record economic success, and will do so again,” the spokeswoman said. of the Trump campaign, Samantha Zager, in a statement on Friday. .
During the Fox town hall-style event on Thursday, instead of just saying some version of that, the president was content to brag about his “experience” in office and also criticize his former national security adviser, John Bolton, Whoever says a Trump, reelection would be catastrophic for the country, like a warmongering “idiot”.