President Trump's power over politics and the Republican Party is growing, with more GOP candidates adopting his tactics and relying on his seal of approval to win.
The big picture: For a party defined for a lifetime by cutting taxes and regulation, numerous GOP candidates are instead choosing to run ads on Trump topics like crime, gangs and illegal immigration.
- Entire races — and states — are defined by Trump. In Georgia, Brian Kemp, a Trump clone who rants about fake media, immigrants and crime, crushed the establishment-backed Republican to win the GOP primary. Now, the Peach State will choose between Stacey Abrams, a liberal African American woman, and a conservative white man.
- Trump-backed candidates have won nine of the last 10 contested races, including all primary races. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar calls it a “golden touch,” magically turning long-shot hardliners into instant favorites.
The latest example of the Trump effect is in the GOP race for Florida governor:
- Only last month, Adam Putnam — "Florida's agriculture commissioner and a genial conservative tabbed for political stardom since he won a state house seat at 22 — was ahead of Representative Ron DeSantis in fund-raising, local endorsements and opinion polls," the N.Y. Times' Jonathan Martin reports. "But then Mr. Trump bestowed his formal blessing on Mr. DeSantis for the Aug. 28 primary."
- Now a Mason-Dixon poll has DeSantis 12 points ahead, a month before the primary.
- YouTube of new DeSantis ad, which got a ton of play yesterday.
A source close to the president told me: "Trump loves nothing more than raw, power politics. He knows he's got unprecedented juice with the Republican base, so he's flexing his muscle, and having a blast doing it."
How Trump does it:
- His sway often flows from fear: Fear that he will tweet against you and turn you into a soon-t0-be ex-congressman, like he did with Mark Sanford in South Carolina. Or fear his base will retaliate, unprompted.
- He has a powerful hold on his supporters' minds. A CBS News Battleground Tracker poll, conducted by YouGov and released Sunday, asked who you trust for accurate information. Among strong Trump supporters, the stunning result: Trump: 91% ... Friends & Family 63% ... Mainstream Media 11%.
- He has redefined the social issues that animate the Republican base from religious-rooted moral issues (abortion, gay marriage and "family values") to cultural issues rooted in class and race (immigration, crime and trade).
- He plucks candidates from relative obscurity and instantly turns them into household names in their districts or states — with a tweet, a rally or an endorsement. Because of his supporters' fervor, in a state like Alabama, he can quickly change opinions that were formed by voters over years, even decades.
- "If you're a Trump-skeptical Republican, you have 3 options if you speak your mind publicly: 1) Retire. 2) Be forced into retirement in your next primary. 3) Become a CNN/MSNBC commentator."
Be smart: Trump-style politics might very well outlive this presidency, making him the most consequential GOP president since Ronald Reagan.