Photo: Gaelen Morse/REUTERS
Donald Trump was unusually transparent on Tuesday about the “heads I win, tails you lose” rules of Trump World. When asked, shortly before election results starting coming in, whether he should be held responsible for the fate of the many midterms candidates he endorsed, he told NewsNation, “Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit. If they lose, I should not be blamed at all.”
Sadly for the former president, the edict that he should not be blamed for the performances of candidates he endorsed, funded, held rallies for, and in some cases handpicked was widely ignored. While many predicted a red wave or even a tsunami, Democrats managed to pull off the strongest midterm performance of any in-power party in two decades. Before the night was through, people were pointing a finger at the former president; Trump promoted candidates of dubious quality, like Senate candidates Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz, attacked disloyal GOP candidates, and spent the final days of the cycle teasing his own 2024 presidential campaign.
When Florida governor/Trump nemesis Ron DeSantis delivered one of the GOP’s few huge wins of the night, it solidified the narrative that the ex-president was the 2022 election’s biggest loser. And as Intelligencer’s Jonathan Chait noted, this was the prevailing view even outside the mainstream media:
The sentiment that Trump lost and DeSantis won is reflected across the spectrum of conservative media, encompassing those who disdain Trump as a liability but support him anyway and those who embrace him enthusiastically. The anti-anti-Trump National Review has headlines like “Tonight’s Emerging Narrative: DeSantis vs. the Rest of the Nation” and “Casey DeSantis Is the Greatest Political Mind in Modern History.” But even a Trumpist organ like American Greatness is running headlines such as “DeSantis Is the Night’s Big Winner.”
But there’s one corner of the media landscape where this isn’t the story of the 2022 election. In dispatches from Trump’s personal fantasyland, Tuesday night wasn’t just good for him, it was yet another stunning triumph.
On Truth Social, Trump spent Tuesday afternoon floating some fresh but still baseless voter-fraud conspiracy theories. He went silent for several hours as he hosted an Election Night watch party at Mar-a-Lago (which eventually had to be evacuated as Tropical Storm Nicole approached). Then, as Democrats’ chances started looking up, he returned to gloat about the loss of two Republicans who he felt betrayed him, Colorado Senate candidate Joe O’Dea and New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Bolduc.
At 1:14 a.m. Wednesday, as major networks were calling the crucial Pennsylvania Senate race for John Fetterman, Trump proclaimed Tuesday night “A GREAT EVENING” and blamed Democrats and the “Fake News Media” for any reports to the contrary.
By 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Trump World’s assessments of the GOP’s night grew even rosier. “Official Trump Alerts” blasted out an email touting Trump’s midterms accomplishments. It linked to a four-page memo with the title “PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP’S UNPRECEDENTED SUCCESS IN 2022.” It contained a lot of information about Trump-backed candidates’ successes in GOP primaries and offered excuses for some of the ex-president’s most high-profile general-election flops. For example:
President Trump endorsed Dr. Oz on April 9, 2022, when Oz was trailing his opponent by 7%. Through President Trump’s endorsement and relentless support, Oz won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. In the general election, Oz was outspent by over $16 million.
But on Wednesday morning, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman suggested that these glowing dispatches did not accurately reflect Trump’s mood:
And Trump’s public façade finally started to crack a bit on Wednesday afternoon when he acknowledged that aspects of Election Day were “somewhat disappointing” — though he also touted his candidates’ “219 WINS.” (As Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore noted back in May, Trump “has been furiously padding his win record by backing unopposed House incumbents in safe seats, so the numbers don’t tell us much.”)
And at the end of the day, isn’t the point here that Trump is better than “Ron DeSanctimonious,” no matter what happened on Tuesday night?
Trump certainly seems to think so!