President Trump's original response to the Charlottesville, Va., riot was as follows:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a very long time.
Our country is doing very well in so many ways … We have unemployment the lowest it has been in 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country. Car companies and so many others, they're coming back into our country. We are renegotiating trade deals to make them great for [our] country and great for the American worker. We have so many incredible things happening in our country.
So when I watch Charlottesville, to me, it's very, very sad.
OPINION: Someone at the White House figured out rather quickly that this was an insufficient response. Hence, a quick background follow-up by a White House staffer assured the country that the president was "condemning hatred, bigotry, and violence from all sources and all sides …" There followed two additional statements of condemnation, only one of which was deemed by pundits to be suitably strong enough. The media made sure the response would be joined with a similar lukewarm reaction in the aftermath of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's attempted endorsement of candidate Trump in February 2016.
Two of the three Charlottesville responses missed their mark — for no good reason. Condemnation of assorted neo-Nazi affiliated racist groups is by no means heavy-lifting, but must be strong and unequivocal. Gratuitous observations regarding the presence of leftist radicals or the importance of acknowledging (rather than destroying) history may be accurate, but are best left unsaid when unadulterated evil is at issue.
A primary consequence is to encourage an already-enflamed media to supersize its favorite new storyline (at least since the gradual demise of the Trump/Russian collusion story): the rise of the Trump-aligned alt-right. This narrative is especially dangerous in that it allows the pasting of fringe racist organizations onto the Trump base, thereby demeaning millions of regular old working-class Republicans and Democrats who have legitimate concerns about jobs, border control, sanctuary cities, and an increasingly permissive culture. (Of course, it delegitimizes the president as well.)
To borrow a phrase, the media seeks to degrade "Pittsburgh, not Paris"' — what remains a mysterious land for lefty pundits. How these good folks take to being lumped in with social misfits and a la carte racists will be interesting to watch. You may recall Hillary Clinton's "deplorables" label didn't sit very well with this crowd. They let her know of their disapproval last November.
FACT: President Trump's approval rating has settled around 40 percent, with disapproval in the mid-50s. But neither Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi (with approval numbers in the mid-30s percent) is able to take political advantage.
OPINION: Trump-hate will fuel the Democratic base in 2018. Democrats will likely pick up seats, as the out-of-power party typically performs well in midterm elections. But it is going to be difficult to sustain momentum with its present agenda and cast of (leadership) characters. Sensitivity to identity politics requires Democratic leaders parrot the progressive line, without exception.
Yet a platform of higher taxes, single-payer healthcare, open borders, sanctuary cities, abortion-on-demand, a war on fossil fuels, and multiculturalism is not a formula for success between the coasts. To make matters worse, a significantly reduced "Blue Dog" caucus is nowhere to be found and seems unable to "right" the ship.
FACT: The RNC raised $75.4 million in the first six months of 2017 compared to the DNC's $38.2 million. The RNC also reported 11 million more small donors (defined as less than $200 contributors) than the DNC and had six times more cash on hand ($45 million to $7.5 million).
OPINION: Under normal circumstances, these numbers would be status quo. The president's party always attracts significant dollars — cash follows power and all that.
But this is the age of Trump. Nothing is normal. Many pundits believed the president's diminishing poll numbers would have at least slowed down the GOP money train. That does not appear to be the case, at least not yet.
Maybe we should not be surprised. Trump has been able to navigate seriously negative stories and near-death political experiences better than any politician in memory. Whether Charlottesville and its aftermath is simply an add-on to a long list of close calls or a real turning point against Trump will be made clearer on the first Tuesday of November 2018. But the July-December 2017 fundraising reports will give us an early clue.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich is a Washington Examiner columnist, partner at King & Spalding and author of three books, including the recently released Turning Point. He was governor of Maryland from 2003 - 2007.