Trump understands the principle that all press is good press. Sure, a feud can cause people to dislike you, but there are a few strategic reasons that Trump goes after members of congress like Rashida Tlaib, AOC, and Elijah Cummings.
When he stirs up these storms, many Republicans jump to his defense, just as many Democrats jump to defend whoever is on the receiving end of a classic Trump insult. There are moderate voters that are swayed by these events, but many are becoming numb to the modern Trump news cycle, and are less and less effected by the latest tweet or press conference. Trump engages in these feuds to stir up his own base and even raise a substantial amount of money for re-election.
Seems straightforward? There are actually a few reasons why this tactic is almost political genius.
First, Trump controls the news cycle. No matter what Democratic Presidential hopefuls say or do on a particular day, they often get drowned out by a strategically released tweet or quote. This causes the Democratic party to be reactionary, rather than proactive. Trump’s team controls the conversation, and the Democrats have to go along with it if they want a soundbite to make the evening news.
Second, there is a huge power imbalance between Trump and his targets. He is the President of the United States, and every American is his constituent. He picks on members of congress that have much smaller constituencies, and less of a voice to fight back. Sure, there are plenty of popular members of congress, but when people take Trump’s side in a feud, they can actually vote for him. When someone agrees with Ilhan Omar or Maxine Waters, they are likely to be unable to affect that election. In a sense, Trump has a lot to gain and very little to lose by engaging in these public spats with certain elected officials.
Third, he takes the spotlight away from his direct challengers. By focusing media attention on him and a particular member of congress, Democratic Presidential hopefuls are drowned out. Trump stays in the media, and the other candidates have to fight an uphill battle for attention. Even if the press coverage of Trump is bad, he still uses it to prevent good coverage of Democratic candidates for the White House. Because of this, all press is good press to him.
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