You can tell which potential Democratic opponents for the 2020 race for the presidency worry President Trump the most by the frequency of his tweets attacking them and the thought that goes into choosing the proper pejorative nickname for that rival.
While Trump has been mostly taking his cues on which candidate to ridicule on any given day from the latest polling results that show him trailing at least three top Democratic candidates, up until now he has mostly concentrated his verbal assaults on the two leaders in the Democratic field.
His targets have primarily included former Vice President Joe Biden, whose popularity with Trump’s working-class, rust-belt constituency threatens the president’s ability to win back the swing state voters who delivered his last victory (albeit with foreign assistance), and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), whose truly populist policies threaten to expose the sham promises of Trump’s white nationalism masquerading as phony populist rhetoric.
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It is the surprisingly strong showing in the polls by South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, however, that seems to be inspiring the president’s most recent Twitter tirade attacking Fox News, the cable news network normally so deeply in his pocket, for their coverage of the first openly gay candidate for president.
Trump acted liked a spurned suitor as he displayed his jealousy of the attention the young Hoosier politician was receiving from one of the few actual journalists still working at Fox News.
….who got them there. Chris Wallace said, “I actually think, whether you like his opinions or not, that Mayor Pete has a lot of substance…fascinating biography.” Gee, he never speaks well of me – I like Mike Wallace better…and Alfred E. Newman will never be President!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
While Fox News may indeed be hedging their bets on a future that may not judge their partisan support of a criminal president so favorably, Trump’s indignation at being supplanted on the airwaves of the channel whose heart he thought was forever his is palpable.
Like a boyfriend who isn’t able to fully recognize the hints that he’s being dumped, the president is hurt that his familiarity with the Fox News anchors has led to such apparent contempt now that a younger, fitter candidate has stolen their gaze.
While it’s completely incomprehensible as to why Trump thinks anyone would speak well of him at this point — outside of those being paid handsomely to do so — the fact that even those who are well compensated to sing his hosannas find it difficult to pretend at this stage should tell him everything he needs to know.
He certainly isn’t likely to win Chris Wallace’s loyalty by comparing him negatively to his late father.
Moreover, Trump’s insistence on recycling his comparison of Buttigieg to the Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. Newman after the Indiana mayor so artfully defused that supposedly cutting insult by telling reporters that he had to Google the outdated cultural reference betrays the very reasons that Buttigieg is such a threat to the aging and out of touch president. The young and nimble Rhodes scholars always present a threat to the lumbering and sclerotic incumbent of dubious intellectual capacity.
The fact that an openly gay candidate can compete with Trump in winning the affections of even evangelical voters in America’s heartland shows why the president is so worried about Buttigieg that he felt compelled to attack him, particularly if the mayor threatens his relationship with his crucial ally in his re-election bid, his usually loyal Fox News cheerleaders.
With Buttigieg one of the few Democrats willing to help Fox News earn even more cash by accepting an invitation to hold a town hall on their network this evening, the threat that he can attract even more former Trump voters to his candidacy is more than the president can stand to contemplate.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.