If I didn’t know better I’d think that President Barack Obama wants Donald Trump to be the 45th President of the United States.
The announcement that Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement has been finalized with a timeline of Congressional approval set for the middle of the early presidential primaries is like manna from heaven for Trump.
While the full details of the deal have not yet been announced, Republican presidential contenders who opposed granting Obama fast track trade authority like Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump all benefit from a half year discussion of Obama’s trade policy.
But it is Trump who benefits most by far, as he has made his anti-Obamatrade agenda a cornerstone of his campaign from day one. What’s more, the issue itself plays directly into Trump’s expertise — the art of the deal — establishing him as the most trusted candidate for many Republican, Independent and blue collar Democrat voters on the issue.
To make matters even more interesting, the trade vote is likely a big political loser in two of the three most important states with South Carolinians being particularly sensitive to the impact as they have experienced the job losses in the textile industry that resulted from previous deals.
And it is Trump who immediately seized the bully pulpit on Fox News, appearing with Bret Baier and attacking TPP in unambiguous terms. Trump’s oversized megaphone as the leader for the Republican nomination is effectively setting the stage for the battle over the more than 600 page deal.
Because Congress decided at the beginning of the summer to give President Obama fast track trade authority over the objections of Trump and Americans for Limited Government, which is headed by this author, Republican leaders are trapped.
They are trapped by the timeline for consideration of the deal that they wrote into the law. They are trapped by their inability to make amendments to the deal, forcing them to vote up or down on Obama’s vision for the world economy. And they will be trapped between the voters they need to retain power and their relationships with the corporate cronies and their lobbyists who used the threat of withholding campaign cash to win the Pyrrhic victory on fast track.
All the while, Donald Trump will be bashing their brains in on the issue, rising in the polls, and establishing himself as the most viable candidate for not only the primary, but the general election as well.
Trump has already been meeting with some leaders in Big Labor to discuss areas of agreement like trade, now he is going to be talking directly to those very blue collar workers who rightfully are concerned that their jobs will go away under the deal, and at best, their wages will decline due to increased competition from imported foreign labor.
When it comes down to the politics of it, Trump’s repeated declaration that it is a “bad, bad deal” means more than all the hot air that the political class in D.C. can produce.
By the time Congress votes on Obama’s trade deal in late winter, establishment Republicans in the House and Senate will wonder why Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner fought tooth and nail to force them to make the worst vote they will have in 2016. At least it will be the worst vote until Obama drops his two other trade deal stink bombs on them later in the year to force a vote around the November election.
Politically speaking, Donald Trump has got to be licking his chops, as his pathway to the presidency has been fast tracked by Obama’s trade agenda. Maybe he’ll send John Boehner a going away fruit basket at the end of the month.
Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.