That great sigh of relief you heard on Sunday was the sound of Democrats and the media welcoming Donald Trump’s return to public attention with his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference. What would Washington Post writers do without him?
As for Republicans and Mr. Trump, the future isn’t as clear as the press and the former President would like. The CPAC crowd cheered his speech, which was largely a collection of greatest political hits. But if CPAC represented America, Mr. Trump would still reside in the White House, not Mar-a-Lago. He lost to Joe Biden, the old Democratic war horse, by seven million votes. He also lost five states he carried in 2016, even Georgia.
That’s the cold GOP reality as the former President seeks to dominate the party from exile and tease a 2024 comeback. Mr. Trump boasted about his record vote total for an incumbent President, and he took credit for every GOP success down the ballot in 2020. His estimable polling advisers, John and Jim McLaughlin, made the same case in our Letters column on Monday.
We welcome the debate, but if 2020 was so fabulous, why are Republicans shut out of power up and down Pennsylvania Avenue? They have zero influence over the $1.9 trillion spending extravaganza they rightly deplore. Democrats are slowly erasing the Trump legacy on taxes, deregulation, energy, education, and so much more.
This didn’t have to happen. Incumbent presidential races are typically consolidating elections as the party in power reinforces gains from four years earlier. The Trump years are a rare exception, as Mr. Trump never reached a job approval rating above 50% despite his policy achievements. The public dislike is personal.