If there’s one aspect of the 2016 presidential race in which Donald Trump isn’t doing well, it’s big political endorsements.
So far he’s won the official backing of one US senator (Jeff Sessions of Alabama) three governors (Chris Christie of New Jersey, Paul LePage of Maine, and Rick Scott of Florida) and seven US representatives. That’s good for only 42 points in the FiveThirtyEight data site’s endorsement primary, less than half the corresponding number for rival Ted Cruz.
As for newspapers (the superpowers of endorsement, right?) Trump had only one, the New York Observer. And even that was kind of a gimme, since it’s owned by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Whew. Jared and wife Ivanka can now relax and look forward to harmonious Thanksgiving table talk about how Ivanka forgot to register as a Republican in time to vote in Tuesday’s New York primary.
But you’ll notice we said Trump “had” the nod of only one paper. This week he’s landed a big one, the tabloid New York Post.
In a way, that’s unsurprising, too. The Post is the Trumpiest paper in America. It’s bold, it’s brash, it grabs you by the lapels. Over the decades Trump has often appeared on its front page.
But what is surprising is the nature and tone of the endorsement. It sounds a bit like the editors are talking themselves into marrying somebody who drives them crazy now, but will surely morph into a different person after the wedding.
This starts right up top. The endorsement editorial begins with the Post calling Trump a “potential superstar” who makes “rookie mistakes”.
Then it moves to this: “Should he win the nomination, we expect Trump to pivot – not just on the issues, but in his manner. The post-pivot Trump needs to be more presidential: better informed on policy, more self-disciplined and less thin-skinned.”
Translation: “After the honeymoon we’re sure Trump will settle down. He’ll quit insulting rivals, figure out the nuclear triad, and there won’t be any more references to the size of his fingers.”
Then the endorsement nods to Trump’s promise. It celebrates him as a “doer” and accomplished businessman. It says he’s ripped through the “morass” of the nation’s stale, insider-driven politics.
It says he’s right to slam the system for being “rigged”.
And then it dives back towards those “rookie mistakes”.
No, the Post opines, pushing Japan and South Korea to go nuclear in their own defense, as Trump has done, is “not remotely a good idea."
Trump’s famous Mexican-financed border wall? That’s “too simplistic” a policy for a nation of immigrants. Those free-trade deals that Trump excoriates as bad deals for America? Remember that free trade means cheaper goods and challenges US business to improve.
The Post hits his language as worse than his policy. It’s been “amateurish, divisive – and downright coarse,” according to the editors.
But all this will change of course once the thank-you notes are written and the wedding gifts stowed. Trump will remain the bad boy we love while adding a sort of JFK-Reagan vibe to unite the nation.
“In the general election, we’d expect Trump to stay true to his voters – while reaching out to those he hasn’t won yet,” the Post concludes.
And we’ll all live happily ever after.