- - Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Have you ever heard of Tim Kraft? John White? Hamilton Jordan?

In November 1980, James Earl Carter became the first Democratic president in 92 years (since Grover Cleveland in 1888) to fail to win reelection as president. That same election, while the Republicans took the Senate for the first time in 26 years, the Democrats retained control of the House with 243 seats.

Tim Kraft was the manager of President Carter’s reelection campaign in 1980. Hamilton Jordan was the architect of the enterprise, and John White was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

How about Robert Mosbacher? Rich Bond? Bob Teeter?

In 1992, George H.W. Bush became the first Republican president to fail to win reelection as an incumbent since Herbert Hoover in 1932. In that cycle, the Democrats retained their control of both the House and the Senate.



Bob Mosbacher was his campaign manager in 1992. Robert Teeter was the senior adviser. Rich Bond was the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The reason why you haven’t heard of most or all of these people is because usually — and with good reason — when you lose a presidential election for an incumbent, the world moves on without you.

In 2020, President Trump became, obviously, the first Republican president to fail to win reelection since 1992 and just the third Republican incumbent in the last 100 years to be defeated. The Democrats kept control of the House and gained control of the Senate.

Nevertheless, the chair of the RNC, who lost the election nationally, as well as her own state, remains in place. Moreover, almost the entire team of advisers remains the same. No one apparently has done or not done anything — other than lose an election in which they worked for an incumbent president — that warrants their departure.

Mr. Trump is very good at many things. As a candidate and president, he transgressed norms that needed transgressing, told the truth about many issues — Europe, China, the Middle East, immigration, trade, the hypocrisy of Washington — that required generous doses of the truth, and he accelerated the welcome change of the Republican Party into a more multi-racial, working-class party.

But he was not a great candidate. He ran three times for office, thought seriously about it two more times, and won one just once. That’s perfectly acceptable, but it’s not dazzling. Nor was he a particularly good judge of political horse flesh.  

As president, he hired more than a few people who aggressively tried to obstruct his agenda (Chief of Staff John Kelly), staff who were more concerned about other people  — for a long time, a former Boehner staffer ran political affairs and the personnel office — or people who were simply clueless about how the federal government worked. His shadow chief of staff was a Democrat for most of the administration.

Mr. Trump should be praised for the numerous accomplishments of his administration. We also should be clear-eyed about the failures. The Republican Party or whatever comes next is never going to be healthy until it acknowledges its shortcomings.

Republicans — or someone other than the Democrats — need to win elections again. Mr. Trump can help them do that.

At the same time, it is contrary to both reason and experience to imagine that the same team that cruised into the White House in 2017 is going to be able to manage the policy challenges any better the next time around. Owning the libs is fun. Trolling the media is always a good time.

But neither are substitutes for actual ability to run a government and get the outcomes you want. That requires experience, persistence and knowledge of policy and the system. In other words, a different skill set than what the current team possesses.

Those funding or supporting this might want to take a step back and think about how they are spending their money and what they want to achieve in the next 10 years or so. Then act accordingly.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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