Three weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Congressman Mike Simpson declared that his party’s nominee for president, Donald Trump, was “unfit” to hold the office.
That sort of thing doesn’t happen in presidential elections, but Simpson had his reasons for pulling away from Trump. The infamous “Access Hollywood” recording, in which Trump made vulgar comments about women, was too disgusting — even for some Republicans. Simpson wasn’t the only one creating waves. Sen. Mike Crapo initially withdrew his support for Trump after the recording was made public, then came back to the Republican fold a few days later. But all signs were pointing to a resounding victory for Hillary Clinton, and Simpson seemed to be accepting that fate — to the chagrin of Republican diehards in the Gem State.
The times have changed after two and a half years of Trump’s presidency, and so have Simpson’s thoughts.
“President Trump has delivered on his campaign promises that have resulted in the strong economic success we are experiencing across the nation,” Simpson said. “With the national unemployment rate at 3.6 percent and wages on the rise, there is no doubt that tax cuts and regulatory reform helped spur this economic growth.”
Skeptics will argue that the jury is out as to whether the tax cuts boosted the economy, or whether Trump deserves credit for anything beyond referring to his opponents as “losers” or “morons.” But in fairness, if a president gets the blame when the economy tanks, then he deserves credit for when the numbers look good.
“The facts speak for themselves — 4 million new jobs since 2016, economic growth at 4.2 percent, median household income has hit the highest level ever recorded, and our military is regaining the support it deserves from Congress,” Simpson said.
With polls in Idaho showing overwhelming support for the president among Republicans, Simpson’s views are in line with the mainstream thinking of his party. Last month, I sat with Ada County Republicans for a watch party when Trump announced his bid for re-election. The audience cheered and applauded almost every line of his nearly 90-minute address — showing that, at least in their eyes, Trump can do no wrong. Barring something unforeseen, such as the apocalypse, Trump is likely to again carry Idaho by a wide margin regardless of who he faces on the Democratic side.
Simpson isn’t the only Republican to “forgive and forget” Trump for his past political sins. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio (dubbed by Trump as “Little Marco”) were harsh critics of Trump during the 2016 primary campaign. A month ago in Orlando, they were warmly introduced by Trump during his re-election announcement and were referred to as “great men.”
And how about Sen. Ted Cruz, who repeatedly was branded as “Lyin’ Ted” during the primary campaign? All Trump did was say that the senator’s wife was ugly — the ultimate insult — and suggest that his dad was part of the plot to kill Kennedy. Apparently, Cruz didn’t take any of that personally. The two are best of buddies now, and Cruz has endorsed Trump’s re-election bid.
I’m not sure if Simpson ever will be invited to play golf with Trump, or the two will have the occasion to shake hands and embrace at a campaign event — although if Simpson can hug former Idaho Congressman Bill Sali on a stage, then anything is possible.
Simpson is sticking with his support for Trump on the policy front, and Democrats are making it easy for the congressman to back the president.
“While Trump offers border security, energy security and a chance to stabilize health care markets while reeling in drug prices, the Democrats and their (candidates) offer a much different vision. The front-runners for the Democratic primary are promoting open borders, disbanding ICE, a radical Green New Deal that would devastate our economy, and government-run health care,” Simpson said.
“The choice as of today is simple. President Trump far outweighs the extreme liberal agenda that I have had a firsthand experience with since Nancy Pelosi took over as Speaker of the House,” Simpson added.
Now that Simpson is in Trump’s camp, his political life should be a bit easier; he has the rhetoric down for a nice speech to next year’s state party convention. He also doesn’t have to worry about being labeled by Trump as a “loser,” or a “moron.”
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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.