Political News

The peculiar endorsement 'strategy' of Donald Trump

Posted June 12, 2018 5:47 p.m. EDT

— On Tuesday afternoon, en route back from a summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to offer some endorsements.

"Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA," Trump tweeted about the race in South Carolina's 1st District. "He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina. I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in SC, a state I love. She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes. VOTE Katie!"

And another: "I strongly endorse Adam Laxalt for Governor of Nevada. Adam is smart, works hard, and knows how to win. He will be a great Governor. Also, will fight hard to lower your taxes and is tough on crime!"

What's odd about these endorsements? The primaries in South Carolina and Nevada are today! Polls close in South Carolina at 7 p.m. Eastern! (And at 10 p.m. Eastern in Nevada.) 

In short, Trump is giving people hours -- at most -- to be influenced by his endorsement. (And that doesn't count voters in South Carolina who voted absentee and the 178,000 who voted early in Nevada.)

So why do it? 

When it comes to Trump, it's hard to know. But here are my potential explanations:

He just wants to be on the record for/against people. And particularly in the case of Sanford, Trump wants to get back at someone who has said bad things about him. (If/when Laxalt and/or Arrington win.) This was the only time he could do it. Trump has been in Quebec and then Singapore steadily  since last Friday. This may be the first time he sat down and thought about it. (I doubt this explanation because, well, Twitter is 24/7.) He's playing the long-ish game -- particularly as it relates to South Carolina. Sanford has two challengers, meaning that it's possible he could finish first today but with less than 50% -- meaning a runoff likely against Arrington. If that came to pass, a Trump endorsement could actually make a difference.

Which is it? Some part of more than one of these options? None?

The Point: Trump's political instincts are quite good. His political know-how is often less, um, good. He's also a creature of instinct -- which sometimes works for him and sometimes works against him.

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