October 2, 2022

Most Americans were just living their lives Saturday evening, going out on dates, watching college football, enjoying a well-earned rest from a busy week.
But that evening may have been an important moment for the national Republican Party.
Donald Trump showed up in Ohio to hold a rally, thinking perhaps that he — and his relationship with the base — would help the chances of Republicans with 50 days left until the midterm elections.
But according to the New York Times, Trump was not invited to campaign in the state, and the snubbers included J.D. Vance, the Republican US Senate nominee who is battling Democrat Tim Ryan in the state’s biggest contest.
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Not only was Trump not invited, but Democrats mocked the fact that he decided to hold his rally during an Ohio State football game. This was a big no-no. It seemed clueless, especially since the team is in contention this year for the national championship.
The rally appeared to create the worst possible situation for local Republicans. They faced tons of political downside and no political upside if they attended. But if they skipped it, they risked incurring the wrath of MAGA Republicans.
Why the political downside? Trump is becoming more unpopular.
An NBC News poll over the weekend showed only 34 percent of registered voters nationwide had a favorable view of Trump, while 54 percent had a negative view. That is a net of negative-20 points. This is 15 points worse than when he left office in January 2021.
Why no political upside? The rally wasn’t like past Trump rallies that were carried live on major cable networks. For the most part, this one was ignored. When it was covered, the media noted that for the first time Trump spoke over a song that sounded to the audience like the anthem of the QAnon conspiracy group. Many in the crowd responded with the QAnon salute.
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Cable news and national newspapers were mostly focusing on other things Saturday evening.
Besides the upcoming funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, there was nonstop discussion of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s stunt to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
Human rights activists and lawyers heavily criticized the move. Democrats pointed out it was playing politics with vulnerable people.
But here’s the thing: DeSantis was actively trying to change the national conversation in a way he believes would help Republicans.
Since August, Democrats have built up significant political momentum. President Biden’s poll numbers are up to their highest level in 11 months. Analysts say Democrats are now the slight favorites to keep control of the US Senate after the midterm elections. Some are even wondering if Democrats can do the same in the House, a much harder thing to pull off.
A major reason for this momentum was the US Supreme Court’s decision this summer to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion precedent. Another big reason has been the ever-growing legal mess Trump is facing.
DeSantis briefly injected immigration back into the discussion.
And while Trump isn’t being invited to campaign with high-profile candidates, DeSantis has been — a lot. Most recently he was in Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Wisconsin, where the Republican candidate for governor there said DeSantis is a model to follow.
As for how DeSantis is viewed by voters, the same NBC News poll found that DeSantis is viewed 15 points more favorably than Trump, though many are still learning about DeSantis.
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On Saturday night, Trump was on the defensive and, while his legal troubles mount, not offering much assistance to his party.
DeSantis was the one playing offense and at least trying to help. This could be a subtly important point heading into 2024, when they could face each other on a primary ballot.
James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.
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