Oct 2, 2018 - Politics & Policy

The Trump way often works

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

It drives the media, Democrats and more than half of America mad, but President Trump's unorthodox, jam-your-opponent style can be effective.

What he's done: He erased NAFTA, as a word, and replaced the trade pact with a different name (the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA) and better terms for America. Sure, he infuriated Canada and Justin Trudeau, but he delivered the goods. (And helped some farm-state candidates just before midterms.)

  • His tax cut, jammed through last year, continues to juice a red hot economy that has consumers confident, stocks soaring, joblessness sinking. 
  • His wild, improvisational press conferences and rallies still grab massive audiences — and drive the media conversation. 
  • And his no retreat, no surrender approach has helped Brett Kavanaugh survive brutal hearings, and put the conservative judge on the cusp of a lifetime Supreme Court seat.

The White House says it's as simple as Trump sticking to, and delivering, what he promised — defying low expectations amid chaos and distractions.

A veteran Democratic presidential adviser said that the Trump formula is taking a clear position and driving toward it — making sure everyone knows where he stands, and only focusing on one or two policy goals at a time.

  • The adviser pointed to the cap on deductibility of state and local taxes — included in Trump's tax-reform plan — as an enviable achievement.
  • "Presidents going back to Ronald Reagan have tried to do this," the Democrat said. "He had the determination and skill to get it done. Clinton didn't. Obama didn't."

After his surprise NAFTA win, Trump was sunny at the White House yesterday, and preened at a rally in Tennessee last night about his dominance in news coverage:

  • "You know what it’s called? Earned media," he said. "And I earned it."

With midterms 35 days away, there’s some evidence that Trump's recent campaign to make this election about his favorite topic — him — plus the court fight has Rs more energized than at any point this year.

  • Polling has swung sharply against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), with analysts pointing to Kavanaugh's popularity in the state as a factor.
  • Trump's message and travel have greatly strengthened Republican Senate challengers in Missouri, Montana and West Virginia.
Go deeper