WEIGHING IN – This week may very well be the week Elise Stefanik comes to regret.
That’s because during the same week that the conservative New York Post and the Wall Street Journal editorial board roasted former President Donald Trump – the WSJ called Trump the party’s “biggest loser” – U.S. Rep. Stefanik professed her loyalty to the former president.
“I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2024,” Stefanik, the House’s third-ranking Republican, told The New York Times. “It is time for Republicans to unite around the most popular Republican in America who has a proven track record of conservative governance.”
The most popular Republican in America? Really? The guy that the New York Post’s front page lampooned this week with a graphic and headline reading: “Trumpty Dumpty”?
It’s not just Murdoch-owned newspapers that appear to have moved away from Trump following Tuesday’s midterms, in which a slew of high-profile Trump-backed candidates lost. Other Republican leaders, such as longtime Trump adviser David Urban and former Long Island U.S. Rep. Peter King, told The New York Times they think the party should find a new direction.
More importantly, there is evidence the American people have broadly rejected Trumpism.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, we now have three consecutive national elections in which Trump has faced big losses.
First came the 2018 midterms in which Democrats took the House, gaining 41 seats while Trump was in office.
Then came the 2020 presidential election when Trump lost to a candidate who is now one of modern history’s most unpopular presidents.
Finally, we had Tuesday’s midterms.
Some of the stinging results for Trump this week include in Pennsylvania, where Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz lost to John Fetterman, 51% to 47%, and the gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who staked his election on 2020 election denialism, went down in a landslide. Elsewhere, the Trump-endorsed Republican Blake Masters trails Sen. Mark Kelly in a critical Arizona Senate race. These are just a few examples.
Stefanik notably faced her own defeats earlier this year when her endorsed candidates, such as Carl Paladino, lost bids.
All the more painful for Trump this week is that the front page of the New York Post on Election Night declared “DeFuture,” beneath a triumphant picture of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who seems more poised than ever to enter the 2024 presidential race.
It’s true that Trump and acolytes can point to some midterm victories, such as Trump-endorsed Republican J.D. Vance notching a solid “W” over Rep. Tim Ryan in the Ohio Senate race, 53% to 47% … but the state’s Republican governor won re-election by more than 25 points, far outpacing the Trump-aligned Vance.
And, in New York, even though Trump’s guy Lee Zeldin lost, he did so in the tightest New York gubernatorial election since 1994. Ironically, if Zeldin weren’t a Trump loyalist and an election denier, he may have been able to follow in George Pataki’s footsteps Tuesday, considering messages about high crime and high prices resonated with many New Yorkers.
Stefanik, meanwhile, can tout her own easy victory Tuesday over moderate Democrat Matt Castelli as proof of her strong positioning. But the newly redrawn 21st Congressional District was favorable turf, and that win reflects regional, not national, appeal.
Nationally, Trumpism isn’t winning. Worse for the GOP is that it’s likely-but-still-to-be-determined narrow majority in the House of Representatives will include at least 140 members who deny the 2020 presidential results, according to The New York Times. At least 15 of these Republicans are new additions. You could argue these numbers show the Trump brand is still minty fresh. But the results of the last three national elections suggest Americans have strongly soured on the messaging.
With a slim majority in the House, party leaders — including Stefanik — will have to kowtow to the most extreme Republicans if they want to stick together as Team Red. In the short-term, this could play well for Congresswoman Stefanik, and may even earn her more power within her party.
But say Trump runs for president and picks the New York congresswoman as his 2024 running mate. Despite the fact that on social media Trump said the New York Times article — in which Stefanik doubles down on her Trump fealty — only quotes “enemies and losers,” there is a definite possibility Trump selects Stefanik as his VP nominee. It’s an option in which Stefanik has expressed strong interest. She’s “Ultra-MAGA and proud of it,” after all.
Then, say after Trump defeats Ron DeFuture in a primary, the Trump/Stefanik ticket loses in the general to “Sleepy Joe.”
What moniker will the New York Post bestow upon Stefanik as a result?
Columnist Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.