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The Seeds Of Their Destruction

Rick Wilson goes deep on how the Republican Party can thank the financial and political troubles plaguing Donald Trump and the party for the rapid decline of the MAGA GOP, and it's only getting worse.
Published:February 22, 2024

By Rick Wilson

It’s remarkable just how much damage the MAGA GOP can take in a single month. I was talking with Simon Rosenberg and Joe Trippi last week on the Strategy Session, and the thought came to me that Donald Trump and the MAGA GOP have had a truly awful month…and so much of it is utterly self-inflicted. He’s got legal, political, and structural problems compounding daily, and while I’m normally not a bluebird of happiness on these pages, I wanted to share some good news with you:

Trump Is Broke, And It’s Getting Worse

Trump’s financial exposure is growing more dire and desperate by the moment. His New York problems are just the tip of the iceberg. He’s a man who owes New York half a billion dollars if you include interest and owes E. Jean Carroll about $84 million. He hasn’t had any meaningful deal flow revenue since selling the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., and has no significant property deals on the horizon. He’s a landlord and golf club owner, which won’t put him in the cash position to meet his obligations. 

Trump fans are squealing about the SEC’s approval of the merger of Trump’s Truth Social with Digital World Acquisition Corp. The DWAC SPAC (yes, it rhymes) was set up to fund a go-to-market plan for Truth Social, Trump’s Dollar Store social media network. They mistakenly believe that this merger will deliver an astonishing $4 billion into Trump’s pockets the day the deal closes, but the reality is far, far from that. Here’s part of the problem: Truth Social’s revenue last year was under $3,000,000. With a strong tech-industry EBITDA, the valuation is 10x revenues. Sure, memestonks are real, but this one is a long shot. [UPDATE: As reported in Puck tonight, Truth Social had revenue of $3.4 million and lost almost $50 million. They also have a more cogent explainer on why he’s not walking with $4 billion from DWAC’s IPO.]

You can see where this falls apart.  

To top it all off, Trump is racking up interest by the day — one figure put it at $87,000 — and he’s desperately looking for a way to beg (preferred), borrow (don’t expect to get it back), or steal (which is how he got here in the first place) enough to cover the appeal bond in the New York State case. There was some rumint and speculation that Elon Musk was about to play sugar daddy, but nothing has come to pass.

The Venn Diagram of people with the means and the lack of judgment to loan Trump $500 million or more is narrow indeed.

Trump’s Campaign Is Broke, And It’s Getting Worse

The colossal, roaring burn rate of the Trump campaign’s recent spending leaves political professionals with their jaws hanging down. The Sucker ATM of his email list is drying out after eight years of sending in their disability and Social Security checks to the Grifter In Chief, and it’s still not even close to enough.

In January, they raised $8.8 million…and spent $11.4 million. This math doesn’t work. It’s totally unsustainable. It means Trump can’t reserve paid media —digital, cable, and broadcast — in advance at more favorable rates and availabilities. It means they can’t scale into targeted states with staff and operations.

The Trump SuperPACS are spending the lion’s share of their revenue defending his legal bills, this cash crunch is a brutal reminder that he’s in a deep financial hole that’s getting deeper and darker by the day. It was one thing for him to skim off the top from 2017 and on, but now the bills have a lot of zeroes on them, and there’s only so much dumb small-dollar MAGA money out there.

Everything burns.

They’re Taking Over the RNC…and Its Headaches

This was dumb on so many levels, but it speaks almost exclusively to their desperation to control one more pool of cash. Ronna McDaniel’s supine, utter obedience to Trump was never in question, but they wanted more. A little bird tells me they want the right of first refusal on every dollar the RNC would spend.

Guess where it’s going? Trump’s legal bills.

The Lara Trump takeover — yes, they named some other mook as chairman, but Lara and Trump Strategist Chris LaCitiva — who is the smartest person in Trump’s orbit by a long stretch — are there to bleed and bleed and bleed the RNC until it’s a desiccated husk. Write it down: before this is over, they’ll have to borrow against the building on C Street.

The ways the RNC works is too arcane to delve into here, but suffice to say, the worm-filled can they just bought is full of bitter, needy, foot-stomping state GOP committeemen and committeewomen who make Trump look positively Stoic.

Keep Trying to Kill Early Voting, Donald

In an interview with Frau Ingraham on the Fox Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft last night, Donald Trump opined at length on one of his personal hobbyhorses, slamming early voting. Given that his people take his every word as gospel — both seriously and literally, if you will — and believe he has special knowledge, this will end badly.

Democrats often wonder why the GOP is so good at election mechanics. It’s not cheating or gerrymandering; a big part of it was finally getting the art and science of early voting down pat. Mail-in ballots, early poll openings, and so on were scaled by Republicans as a winning tactic over the last 25 years. Since Trump’s endless, bleating false claims that he was robbed in 2020 by nefarious early voting manipulations, the MAGA voting population has diverged from the operations and consultant class dramatically.

The GOP professional class knows without early voting, they’re positively, utterly screwed. The more he tells the base not to vote by mail, vote absentee, or vote early, the harder it is for the people running the hard, mechanical parts of the turnout operation to make it happen for Trump.

I hope he keeps this line of attack on early voting going until Election Day. 

The Murder of Navalny

What’s the primary sound you hear from Republicans since the murder of Alexi Navalny?

Dead silence, that’s what.

Well, in Trump’s case, of course, he compared himself to he martyred hero of Putin’s oppressive regime, but the last time I checked, Trump hadn’t been framed, poisoned, imprisoned in a gulag, tortured, beaten, and murdered. Most Americans didn’t know who Navalny was a week ago.

It hasn’t stopped the MAGAs from their continued fanboying of Vladimir Putin, but it is one more tile in the mosaic of what people are coming to understand about the modern MAGA GOP: their swagger and tough talk isn’t matched by reality. One again, they’re on the weak side of the argument. They’re weak on defense, weak on foreign affairs, weak on the border, and weak on protecting America.

Navalny was an easy one, and they missed it, badly. Keeping Trump and Putin happy isn’t their main job; it’s their only job.

Impeachment Is Over

The chances of Jim Comer and Gym Jordan pulling off an impeachment of Joe Biden before this week were vanishingly small. After the news that the FBI’s main source was arrested for lying to the FBI about Joe and Hunter Biden, those chances dropped even more.

GOP’s Biden Impeachment Witness Told Feds He Got Stories From Russian Officials covers the topline: the star witness in the Comer/Jordan/Johnson impeachment case against Joe Biden was not simply arrested for lying about nearly every detail of the case, but — quel surprise! — the man on whom the MAGA Caucus hung their entire case is a damn Russian intelligence conduit.

In 2016, the Russians executed the greatest intelligence and propaganda coup in modern history. In 2024 the GOP isn’t just a credulous conduit for Russian agitprop; they’re sitting there like baby birds begging to be fed by Daddy Vlad.

If you want a remarkable insight into the House GOP, read the Special Counsel’s filing arguing for ongoing detention of the star witness in their case against Joe Biden.

Aside from the fact that the FBI determined Smirnov was lying about everything in the case, he was working both sides.

Here’s the end of the phony impeachment drama in one sentence: During his custodial interview on February 14, Smirnov admitted that officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story about Businessperson 1. (Businessperson 1 is, of course, Hunter Biden.)

A New Low: Donald Trump Hustling Chinese Kicks

A President of the United States in the eras from the Founding to Donald Trump

George Washington saw early on that the the dignity and solemnity of the presidency was a core necessity for the new position; he saw the presidency as an office that required a serious and steady demeanor. It wasn’t simply that he knew his actions would set precedents for future officeholders; this experiment in post-monarchical power required unassailable leaders. Even after leaving office, he defined much of what it meant to be President.

In the modern era, Every President until Trump followed at least the broad outlines of some sense of dignity and probity or paid a price for it.

For Trump, that price is $399.00 for a pair of hideously Temu-class kicks that reflect both the utter gullibility of his masses and his grotesque lack of taste. Nothing, and I mean nothing, about watching him hawk these painfully tacky kicks gives me any pleasure. I expect little if any dignity from Trump and am thus never disappointed.

How does this scan with most Americans? It’s gross. It has that ick factor no candidate wants. It looks cheap, desperate, vulgar, and venal. As always, what sells to this base, from politics to sneakers, doesn’t sell to most Americans.