Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump in early 2016 — and continues to stand by him, even as the president navigates much criticism over his handling of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, along with a political scenario electrified by a hostile media, conflicting reports and strong public emotions. Mr. Trump had a similar experience following his recent comments about North Korean aggression.
“President Trump is something we haven’t had in national leadership in a long time. He’s substance over form. So many of our politicians, recent leaders, national leaders, have been form over substance. They tell people what they want to hear. They sugarcoat everything, or they have sugar-coated everything. And I think the American people have gotten sort of thin skinned. I think they need to listen to the substance of what he says,” Mr. Falwell told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
“One of the reasons I supported him is because he doesn’t say what’s politically correct. He says what is in his heart, what he believes. Sometimes that gets him in trouble. He does not have a racist bone in his body. I know him well,” Mr. Falwell added.
Republican pollster and ABC contributor Kristen Soltis Anderson pointed out that Mr. Trump’s remarks about Charlottesville enraged his critics and brought the need for an “unambiguous” message into focus. She also suggested the president articulates beliefs which identify “where most Republicans are.”
It’s been going on for a while.
“I think over the last couple of months, the leadership of Donald Trump has really sort of brought to life some views in the Republican Party that may have always been there. But now we have a leader putting voice to them. And I think it’s creating a lot of tension for many of these Republicans in Washington, who feel the need to say this is wrong and yet their voters back home feel very differently,” the pollster observed, also during an appearance on “This Week.”
THE ECLIPSE BECOMES MEDIA STAR
There’s certainly no news blackout here. The total eclipse of the sun Monday has given the news media something else to cover besides President Trump for the afternoon. Every major broadcast and cable news network will cover the singular event; NASA itself will livestream the phenomenon, complete with satellite and telescope images. Meanwhile, the eclipse has inspired many headlines in the past 24 hours. Among them:
“Some say the eclipse spells our doom; but it’s politics that’ll do us in” (New Jersey Star-Ledger); “What would the solar eclipse look like from the moon?” (The Atlantic); “Once portents of terror, eclipses are now an excuse for a party” (The Economist); “Solar eclipse presents first major test of power grid in renewable era” (ETEnergyworld.com); “Anticipation builds as millions pack prime viewing spots” (USA Today); “Keeping your pets safe during Monday’s total solar eclipse” (CBS); “U.S. post offices in path of eclipse offer special postmarks” (ABC); “How to spot counterfeit solar eclipse glasses” (Fortune); “Solar eclipse could cost U.S. employers” (Sky News); and “Fishing during the eclipse could be fun” (Charleston Gazette-Mail).
SCANTY FUNDS FOR THE DEMOCRATS
Republicans only need to report the numbers when weighing in on the Democratic National Committee, which is having its worst fundraising experience in a decade. In July, 2016, the Democrats pulled in $32.4 million. This July, the number was $3.8 million — its worst July of fundraising in 10 years.
“The Democrats added $154,000 in new debt, bringing their total debt to $3.4 million,” says Michael Ahrens, the “rapid response” communications director for the Republican National Committee, who notes that the GOP has zero debt.
So far this year, Republicans have raised $86.5 million and have $47.1 million in cash on hand; the Democrats have raised a total of $41.9 million and have $6.9 million on hand.
“Wasn’t the Democratic establishment’s rationale for backing Tom Perez over Rep. Keith Ellison for Democratic National Committee chair that he’d be a great fundraiser? Is the buyer’s remorse setting in yet?” asks Mr. Ahrens.
DEMOCRATS HAVE PLANS FOR ARIZONA
Yes indeed, President Trump will stage a jumbo public rally in Phoenix on Tuesday. The Democrats, however, are already there. On Monday, Democratic Party leaders stage a press conference to address the rally, and to “hold Trump accountable for his hateful rhetoric in the aftermath of Charlottesville,” organizers say.
On hand for the event at a downtown hotel: Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Arizona Democratic Party Chair Alexis Tameron and Democratic National Committee CEO Jess O’Connell — all set, they say, “to reaffirm the Democratic Party’s values as one of inclusion and opportunity for all Americans and voice support for peaceful protests as hate and violence only divides us.”
REPUBLICANS COOL ON MCCONNELL
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell often draws mixed reaction in national polls. A recent Morning Consult survey, for example, found that among all voters, 21 percent gave Mr. McConnell a favorable review, 41 percent an unfavorable one — and a notable 38 percent said they had “never heard of him.”
A new Rasmussen Reports poll, meanwhile, found that 36 percent of likely Republican voters say it would be “good for the United States” if Mr. McConnell stepped down from his post, while 17 percent believe it would be bad for the nation.
Another 35 percent of GOP say the move would have no impact, while 12 percent are undecided.
POLL DU JOUR
• 62 percent of U.S. voters say public Confederate statues should “remain as a historical symbol”; 86 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 44 percent of Democrats agree.
• 27 percent overall say the statues should be removed because they offend “some people”; 6 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of independents and 47 percent of Democrats agree.
• 52 percent overall say President Trump’s response to Charlottesville was “not strong enough”; 19 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democrats agree.
• 52 percent overall say race relations in the U.S. have worsened compared to a year ago; 32 percent of Republicans, 47 percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats agree.
• 35 percent approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance; 79 percent of Republicans, 36 percent of independents and 6 percent of Democrats agree.