Mere weeks after Donald Trump sicced his cultists on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Republicans began showing up at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort to pledge their undying loyalty to the man who put the lives of U.S. lawmakers on the line in a desperate bid to overturn his loser status.
Republicans, including some who had feared for their lives that day, just couldn't get enough Trump as they sought the upper hand in the next election cycle. They eagerly shelled out cash at his property, hoping to score an appearance at their event or, god willing, a supposed golden-ticket endorsement from the man who sought to end American democracy.
Trump's political operation has since amassed more than $120 million. "Federal records show that his PAC raised more online than the party on every day but two in the last six months of 2021, one of which was Christmas Eve,” according to The New York Times.
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Now, some 15 months into the 2022 cycle, Trump is stronger than ever as he whimsically drops bomb after bomb onto an electoral landscape that, left alone, would undoubtedly favor the GOP based on historical trends alone.
Trump's latest direct hit came over the weekend in Ohio, where he endorsed "Hillbilly Elegy" author JD Vance in the GOP primary for an open Senate seat. Trump made his move after a harried effort by Vance's rivals, GOP party chairs, and politicos to convince the trigger-happy meddler to keep his powder dry.
Sorry, all, bombs away! Then Trump quit taking phone calls, dodging the blowback from the havoc he'd wrought.
Trump knew the drill: He was fresh off stirring up a similar shitstorm in Pennsylvania with his second toxic primary endorsement for the state's open Senate seat (his first went down in flames). The difference in the Keystone State is that Democrats have a decent chance of picking up a Senate seat there, and Trump's ceaseless tinkering is helping them every step of the way. But hey, let’s not count out Democratic chances in Ohio either, especially with Trump running interference.
But even as Republican strategists pull their hair out, Trump flits merrily about.
“I’m a gambler,” Trump told one aide about wading into the Pennsylvania primary a second time—this time to endorse fellow TV huckster Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Plus, Trump "likes endorsing against candidates, advisers say, just to see their numbers go down," according to The Washington Post. Who could have ever guessed the guy who orchestrated a deadly coup attempt to stay in power would turn out to be such a sadist?
But as such, Trump has exactly nothing to lose this cycle. If Republicans fail to convert in either the House or Senate, he will simply blame them for not being subservient enough to him. In fact, it's patently obvious Trump would love nothing more than to saddle Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with defeat after expectations had been so high.
Trump couldn't care less. The Republican Party, control of Congress, and individual candidates mean nothing to him. The only thing that matters to Trump is undying loyalty, and he'll gladly destroy anything or anyone who isn't meeting his insatiable expectations.
Just ask the guy who once wore body armor on Jan. 6 as he did his level best to help incite Trump's coup. Trump had endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama for that state's open Senate seat until such time as it looked like he was turning into a loser. Instead of sticking by his guy as his candidacy faltered, Trump capriciously pulled the rug out from under Brooks.
Right on cue, Trump blamed Brooks' faltering campaign on what he perceived as Brooks' softening loyalty to him.
“The reason he went down is he got off the 2020 election fraud,” Trump told the Post in an interview.
Brooks hit back after Trump's endorsement of Oz, which has confounded Keystone State Republicans across the spectrum.
“This is happening because Trump’s surrounded himself by staff who are on McConnell’s payroll & hostile to the MAGA agenda. Everybody telling Trump who to endorse in primaries works for The Swamp,” Brooks tweeted. “They played him. Again.”
The notion that Trump has surrounded himself with McConnell staffers is sheer fantasy.
But Brooks is right about the swamp—the swamp Trump generated from his White House perch is indeed playing him.
But as long as Trump can watch someone else’s poll numbers plummet after he endorses their rival, who cares? Trump's just pocketing the cash, drinking in the sycophancy, and reveling in his thrilling game of Battleship, one candidate at a time, as Republican Party operatives hold their breath and brace for impact.
They built that.