For President Donald Trump, it’s always been about winning.
In 2016, candidate Trump famously told his supporters, “We’re gonna win so much, you may even get tired of winning. And you’ll say, ‘Please, please, it’s too much winning. We can’t take it anymore. Mr. President, it’s too much.”
Tuesday, Election Day, could bring an end to Trump’s triumphs at the ballot box. Traditionally, a president’s party loses seats during midterm elections.
Now polls suggest Republicans are likely to lose the House but hold onto the Senate, which the GOP controls 51-49. Even that half victory is a prospect Trump is loath to concede.
On Monday, Trump appeared at three Make America Great Again rallies in the Midwest, gave TV and radio interviews and sent copious tweets about crowd sizes and enthusiasm at the rallies.
Radio show host Rush Limbaugh, revving up the crowd in his hometown, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, faulted Democrats for not accepting that Trump won the 2016 election and praised Trump for being “indefatigable.” Fox News host Sean Hannity interviewed Trump on air before Trump’s final speech Monday night.
Victory in the House and Senate would vindicate Trump’s decision to go negative to gin up his voter base and to not leave his comfort zone by attempting to woo independent voters by talking up the strong economy and his policies.
At times Monday, Trump seemed to think his efforts were paying off. “There is something going on, Ohio, that they’re not talking about,” he told a Cleveland crowd during the first of his three speeches Monday.
“What he’s done is, just really take all the people who are his fan base and he’s made them cheer louder,” noted Ace Smith, veteran Democratic political consultant. “But your fan base cheering louder doesn’t get you one more vote.”
“He’s made the election a referendum on him,” Smith added as he rejected the idea that Republicans can claim a win or draw if they defy political convention and hold onto the Senate. “If he loses any part of it, he loses.”
Former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg doesn’t expect Republicans to lose the House or Senate. “I think we hold everything,” he told the Review-Journal.
But if Republicans do lose the House, Trump could blame “the whole Republican party,” said Nunberg, who faulted outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan and the other 40-plus departing House Republicans for making it that much harder for the GOP to beat the midterm curse.
Still, Nunberg saw a path for Trump to claim a win.
“Here’s a net positive no matter what the result is,” he said. “The party is now Donald Trump’s party.” He’s formed an alliance with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Trump moved Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., (who often is mentioned as Ryan’s most likely successor) further to the right, Nunberg added, which moved the GOP further right.
In a rare moment of introspection Monday, Trump seemed to recognize that, at times, he has gone too far as election day neared. During an interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Trump was asked if there was anything he regretted that he would like to redo.
“Tone. I would like to have a much softer tone,” Trump responded. He added he often felt that he had no choice but to use his trademark combative tone, but “that is something I would say that I’ll be working on.”
During his second speech Monday, at Fort Wayne, Indiana, Trump told the crowd at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, “I do eventually want to unite” the country, “but the fact is, we’re driving them crazy.”
If Republicans lose Tuesday, Smith predicted, Trump will “blame voter fraud” and the “fake news” media.
“The great thing is (Trump) won’t learn any lessons,” he said. “I think that’s probably the surest bet of the whole thing.”
Contact Debra J. Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.