Top 1 Magazine

Top One Magazine

Trump’s White House accomplishments aren’t so easy to sell on the campaign trail

The issue confronting both Haley and Trump is that any abortion policy stance that plays well in a primary may present problems in a general election. While only 35 percent of Republicans said they disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision is overall unpopular among Americans, with a majority — 56 percent — saying they did not support the decision, according to a recent Ipsos poll.

Trump could be rewarded by GOP voters for putting conservatives on the Supreme Court. But Erick Erickson, a conservative radio host who does not plan to endorse any candidate in the GOP primaries, said the former president had an altogether different “vulnerability” on the topic: “that it is no longer an issue.”

“The conservative voters don’t need Donald Trump now to put conservatives on the court, he did it. If anything, he’s kind of hurt himself among social conservatives after Dobbs, by coming out and saying maybe it wasn’t a good idea,” Erickson said.

The more complicated issue, Trump allies say, will be how he navigates his role in the Covid-19 pandemic. Privately, Trump has expressed pride in the historic efforts to produce a vaccine. But he is also quite aware that the far-right has made vaccinations and especially mandates a toxic issue. He was personally booed for telling a crowd he had gotten a booster shot.

Cheung called Operation Warp Speed a “once-in-a-lifetime initiative that gave people the option of utilizing therapeutics if they wished to do so.” But he also stressed that Trump “fought against any attempt to federalize the pandemic response by protecting every state’s right to ultimately decide what is best for their people because of the unique challenges each state faced.”

Since launching his campaign, Trump has attacked another likely 2024 political foe, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for trying to “rewrite history” on his coronavirus response. Trump’s campaign has built up an arsenal of video clips showing DeSantis as supportive of the Covid vaccine even as he has become favored by the anti-vaccine right. The video moments include DeSantis personally greeting a FedEx truck with the first batch of Pfizer vaccines arriving in Florida.

And one person close to the campaign suggested trying to turn former Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner into the faces of Operation Warp Speed, noting that they had leadership roles in the vaccine’s development. But it’s unclear just how effective those lines of attack would be as time passes since the pandemic.

“There may be a small faction in the Republican Party that this applies to, but I don’t see how many Republicans are going to hold it against anyone for promoting the vaccine back in 2020, whether it was Trump, DeSantis or anyone,” said Matt Wolking, a former Trump campaign official and Republican strategist. “The true hardcore anti-vaccine [crowd is] found on the right and the left and it’s been that way for decades. So I think most Republicans are going to continue to advocate for personal choice and not mandates.”

But distrust of the Covid-19 vaccine — not just the mandates — has been a central theme of far-right broadcasts, including Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, which regularly features skeptics on the show. Bannon, a former Trump strategist, has called vaccines and vaccine mandates a “major issue” for Republican voters and Trump’s base. He has warned against Trump leaning into his role promoting the development of the vaccine.

Still, McLaughlin said he doesn’t see any risk to how Trump handles the vaccine. Some conservative voters may recoil at it. But, he said, the more significant dynamic was that the issue itself was no longer as animating as it once was.

“I think people have moved on,” McLaughlin said. “I think there are more pressing issues that people are looking at. When you talk to the average person, they’re struggling to buy food or buy gas.”

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