In the just-completed special congressional race in Pennsylvania, GOP candidate Rick Saccone could not have identified himself more with the president of the United States had he donned a blond wig and chomped a hamburger while tweeting. He appeared with the president twice, the vice-president once, and with various members of Trump’s family and Cabinet. And that’s after he began the campaign by saying of himself that he was “Trump before Trump was Trump.”
In this respect, Saccone resembled the Republican candidates in last year’s Alabama Senate special elections, who all agreed that Trump was the absolute greatest even as they went after each other with claw hammers.
Given this experience, along with the president’s rather healthy ego, he might have normally expected Republican candidates in California to cluster around him during his trip to the Mexican border to view “wall” prototypes this week. But as the Los Angeles Times reported, they were remarkably thin on the ground:
A presidential visit in an election year often comes with an entourage of local officials and candidates hoping to catch a photo op or ride his coattails. But in Southern California, a hotbed of the left’s resistance out West that could prove crucial in the midterms, many are staying away.
The Times asked more than a dozen Southern California GOP candidates if they would attend events with Trump. Most of them either did not respond or said they had no plans to join the president.
The only major GOP elected officials who showed up were lame-duck congressman Darrell Issa and his strange-duck colleague Duncan Hunter, the ethically challenged congressman from a district Trump carried by 15 points.
To be fair, state legislator Travis Allen, one of the two Republicans struggling for oxygen in the governor’s race, was supposed to be there, but he missed his flight. And were any remotely viable Republicans running for the U.S. Senate this year, perhaps they would have been on hand to greet the president — but as of the filing deadline last week, nobody’s making the race against Democratic Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de Leon.
Truth is, these are grim times for California Republicans, and for the most part, they didn’t feel inclined to invite the bad vibes associated with Trump and what might as well have been called the I-Hate-California Tour. Or maybe they’ve noticed that Rick Saccone and those Alabama Senate candidates didn’t win.