At a rally to “help” the Republican candidate for Congress, President Trump barely mentioned Rick Saccone — and reportedly later trashed him.
Over the course of the special election in the Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District, which is set for this Tuesday, the Republican Party has sent a lot of big names to the district to help out their candidate Rick Saccone. Mike Pence has been there more than once, as have such Kellyanne Conway and other direct Trump surrogates. The president himself appeared with Saccone in early February, and then returned to the district Saturday night for one of his patented “campaign rallies.”
Now, normally when major politicians come and campaign for candidates, the idea is to lend their prestige, fame and/or fundraising prowess to someone lesser known than themselves. The idea is to help out, in order to elevate an ally. Former Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to the district last week to campaign for Democrat Conor Lamb was an example of how these typically go: Biden appealed to voters to choose Lamb, going so far as to compare the candidate to his own deceased son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.
Trump, at his rally in Moon, PA., Saturday night, did something different. He rambled for over an hour about a wide variety of topics that didn’t do anything to help Rick Saccone. The speech was delivered in front of several political signs, none of which featured Saccone’s name or likeness.
And beyond that, Trump in Pennsylvania said several headline-grabbing things that had nothing to do with the race and instead completely upstaged the candidate that Trump was ostensibly there to help — from praising North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to calling NBC News’ Chuck Todd a “son of a bitch” to getting behind a deranged proposal to execute drug dealers.
Plus, the only bit of Saccone news that gained any bit of traction over the weekend was a report that he may have exaggerated the level of his diplomatic experience in North Korea.
I would say that Trump couldn’t have hurt Saccone more if he’d directly praised Conor Lamb on the stump. But Trump did that as well, saying that Lamb “looks like a nice guy” — but that Trump is actually the more handsome of the two. That somehow didn’t even make the top ten list of unhinged things Trump said just in that one speech.
If talking about himself at his event for Saccone wasn’t enough of a clue, Trump now appears even less all-in on the candidate. According to a Sunday night report from Jonathan Swan of Axios, Trump has been “privately” trashing Saccone. The piece quotes four sources that have Trump describing the candidate as “weak.” It’s been widely reported that various figures in the Republican establishment are unhappy with Saccone’s performance in the race, and now it appears the president is among them.
Of course, Trump’s performance was similar to something he’s done at previous rallies during campaigns, such as when he endorsed Luther Strange in last year’s Alabama Senate primary but then hedged (“I might have made a mistake“) when it appeared Strange would lose to Roy Moore. Then, after Moore won the primary despite multiple sexual assault allegations, Trump endorsed Moore — but hedged once again before the special election, holding a December rally not in Alabama but a few miles across the border in Pensacola, Florida.
It shows once again that, all-in or not, Donald Trump’s endorsement doesn’t mean as much as many Republicans would like it to mean. Because, as always, an endorsement of Donald Trump is nothing but an endorsement of himself.