Trump in a bubble? Media fault insular, red-state strategy

It's faintly amusing to see the maestros of the mainstream media saying that Donald Trump is going about winning reelection the wrong way.

Not only did virtually all its denizens see Trump losing right up until that November morning in 2016, The New York Times had an election meter that at the end gave Hillary an 85 percent chance of winning: "Mrs. Clinton's chance of losing is about the same as the probability that an NFL kicker misses a 37-yard field goal."

And it was wide right.

So maybe this guy knows something about winning elections that mere journalists don't.

But in a piece yesterday, the Times suggested that the president is pursuing a very strange strategy if he wants a second term.

Now there's a lot of good information in this story. I agree with some of the points. There are head-scratching moments when I can't figure out why Trump isn't doing more to expand his fiercely loyal but short-of-a-majority base.

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Why, for instance, did Trump step on the filing of the Mueller report — a very good story for him — by making a move on ObamaCare, which has been an awful story for him? Why did he overrule some of his top aides and back a lawsuit to junk the law when he has no plan after three failed attempts at repeal with a Republican Congress? I have no clue.

I do know that too many journalists and commentators live in a liberal urban bubble, and I've been saying that for decades.

Presidents, too, can be trapped in a bubble, and that is the focus of the Times story that says the current one is almost hermetically sealed.

"He eats almost every meal in the White House or at properties he owns. His presidential travel has been limited largely to red-state campaign rallies with adoring crowds, brief appearances surveying natural disasters, official travel overseas and a handful of forays to factories. His most consistent interactions with Americans are the steady diet of tweets he sends them."

While the Times acknowledges the bubblicious nature of every presidency, the paper says Trump is comfortable there, living "in an echo chamber of his own making, an approach to the presidency that will be strenuously tested as Mr. Trump begins his campaign for re-election."

Translation: This obviously won't work.

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A look at Trump's travel "shows that the president has mainly spoken to audiences who already agree with him, with the exception of his trips responding to natural disasters ... He has spent 82.5 percent of his presidency at the White House and has visited a property he owns on 224 out of 796 days, or 28.1 percent, he has been in office.

"He has visited 38 states, but that masks the extent to which he has concentrated his time in states that voted for him for president: nine visits to Missouri and West Virginia, eight to Texas and North Carolina, for example. Mr. Trump continued that pattern through the midterm elections, making only three campaign appearances in states that he did not win in 2016."

Oh, and Trump has eaten only five times at the home of supporters (he has that nice hotel five blocks down Pennsylvania when he wants to go out, or that Palm Beach spread).

The paper concedes that LBJ and Richard Nixon were trapped in bubbles by war and scandal, but says Barack Obama, among other things, liked to go to Five Guys.

I have two major caveats here. While Trump does need to expand his base, intensity is also crucial. Once he's not just running against a Generic Democrat, the level of turnout among his supporters could be the difference between 2016 and 2018.

What’s more, Trump isn't only surrounded by sycophants because he watches a whole lot of television. And while Fox News is clearly his preferred network, it's clear from his tweeting that he also hate-watches MSNBC and CNN, which means he's hearing a whole lot of criticism.

That's why Trump tweeted yesterday that ratings at those two networks — and he singled out "Morning Joe" — "tanked" in the wake of the Mueller report. (That could be temporary, of course, and Joe Scarborough responded that his show is breaking its ratings records and Trump is only at 34 percent in New Hampshire.)

Now listening to a bunch of pundits is obviously not the same as engaging in the real America, but it's not being in a windowless bunker, either.

Trump is not much of a glad-hander. You don't see him working rope lines. He doesn't have those reflexes because he didn't grow up in the baby-kissing environment of retail politics. And yet in this social media age, his supporters don't seem to mind.

Maybe Trump does need to get in front of more less-than-adoring crowds, but it's a long way to Election Day.

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For his part, the president yesterday delivered this shot:

"The Fake News Media is going Crazy! They are suffering a major 'breakdown,' have ZERO credibility or respect, & must be thinking about going legit. I have learned to live with Fake News, which has never been more corrupt than it is right now. Someday, I will tell you the secret!"

That's what we in the news business call a tease.