The Corner


The Trump Style Doesn’t Work for His Wannabes

President Donald takes the stage at at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., June 20, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

This week, aspiring senator Kris Kobach lost his primary in Kansas. Earlier this cycle, aspiring senator Roy Moore lost his primary in Alabama and Representative Steve King lost his primary in Iowa. At this hour, former sheriff Joe Arpaio is narrowly trailing the primary election for Maricopa County.

Since Donald Trump won the GOP nomination, we’ve seen a lot of Republicans, of varying degrees of political skill and charisma, try to emulate Trump’s style: pugnacious, over-the-top, pounding-the-table, serving up red meat and provoking outrage at every opportunity. By and large, it hasn’t worked well for candidates for lower-level offices. Don Blankenship, Corey Stewart, Kelli Ward, Chris McDaniel — other candidates who stood out for their incendiary, headline-grabbing rhetoric (and relative lack of interest in actual policy) — either flamed out in primaries or in the general election.

Five years after Donald Trump descended the escalator and announced his presidential campaign, there’s little evidence that the Trump style works for candidates not named Donald Trump. Whether or not you think this should be the case, it’s pretty clear a lot of Republican voters believed Trump had “earned” the right to have this jarring, inflammatory, larger-than-life persona because he was from outside the realm of politics and government. (Recall that when Marco Rubio adopted the Trump style of insults during the 2016 presidential primary; it just didn’t fit him well and didn’t work.)

If you want to be a Trump-style figure in American politics, you should probably spend three decades or so associating yourself with wealth and success outside of the realm of politics, preferably in pop culture, and in prime-time network television with a lot of celebrities. If you’ve been mentioned in hip-hop lyrics about 20 times, made about a dozen film cameos, you’re probably in good shape.

The GOP electorate may love Trump, but they’re not impressed with the wannabes.


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