While Republican delegates prepare to nominate Donald Trump in Cleveland in two weeks, Trump provided yet another piece of evidence that he’s not particularly concerned with the success of the party he has hijacked. New York Times Magazine asked Trump about the importance of maintaining a Republican Senate. Here was Trump’s almost incomprehensible answer – an answer that would be utterly incomprehensible if Trump were actually a conservative or a serious Republican: “Well, I’d like them to do that. But I don’t mind being a free agent, either.”
Of course he wouldn’t. He has no intention of making conservative priorities his own.
Imagine the scenario Trump says he wouldn’t mind: a Democratic Senate. You can forget about a conservative on the Supreme Court. That notion would be dead on arrival. You could also forget about Trump’s supposed immigration priorities, including the fabled Trump Wall and more stringent deportations. So the two top priorities for conservatives – replacing Justice Scalia with someone of like mind, and ending the Democratic strategy of importing potential voters – would be an impossibility.
And Trump says he wouldn’t mind.
He likely wouldn’t mind because he wants to cut deals with Democrats. That provides him popularity and a concomitant sense of meaning. Trump would cut “great” trade and tax deals with Democrats. He’d likely sign off on significant elements of the left’s social agenda. He’d compromise on gun rights.
And he wouldn’t mind doing it.
He’s acting like it, too. According to Ryan Williams, strategist with the 2012 Romney presidential campaign, “Traditionally, the nominee has a robust campaign that absorbs the RNC effort and works in tandem with the down-ballot campaigns. We did that with Romney in 2012. This time around, there’s a complete void at the presidential level. Trump’s trying to play a game of baseball and hasn’t put out an infield.”
So far, the polls don’t show Trump doing significant damage down ballot. But the fact that he doesn’t seem to care should tell Republicans everything they need to know about his priorities.