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Kayleigh McEnany vs. Trump: Who you got?



It is this week once again Jesse Watters’s turn to host the hour of Fox News prime time that was left vacant with the sudden departure of Tucker Carlson. On Tuesday night, as the network prepared to carry Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) speech relaunching his 2024 presidential bid in Iowa, Watters welcomed his colleague Kayleigh McEnany to the show.

The two riffed on comments made on the ABC show “The View” before turning to the rapidly accelerating battle between DeSantis and McEnany’s former boss, Donald Trump. McEnany, no longer formally employed as Trump’s spokeswoman, suggested that aides of DeSantis felt optimistic about his entry into the Republican nominating contest.

“The DeSantis team would say, we just had polling come out that shows we closed the gap by 9 points since we announced in Iowa,” McEnany said. “Still, Trump’s hugely ahead, but they say they’re closing the gap. That’s their argument.”

“Hugely!” Watters interjected. “Bigly!”

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McEnany chuckled gamely and then, consulting a sheet of paper, clarified her point.

“If you look at the polling now, it was Trump 34 in Iowa,” she said. “It’s now Trump 25. That’s double digits.”

“Still a big lead,” Watters added. “Still a very big lead.”

But Trump, watching at home, was not pleased.

“Kayleigh ‘Milktoast’ McEnany just gave out the wrong poll numbers on FoxNews,” he wrote on his social-media platform. “I am 34 points up on DeSanctimonious, not 25 up. While 25 is great, it’s not 34.”

“DeSanctimonious,” of course, is Trump’s preferred nickname for DeSantis, for inscrutable reasons. “Milktoast,” it seems, is how he spells milquetoast.

“She knew the number was corrected upwards by the group that did the poll,” Trump continued. “The RINOS & Globalists can have her. FoxNews should only use REAL Stars!!!”


This is oddly aggressive! It also appears to be wrong.

McEnany was referring to numbers from McLaughlin & Associates, Trump’s own preferred pollster. In late April, Trump did lead by 34 points; last week, he led by 25. That change is a shift of 4 points away from Trump and 5 points toward DeSantis, relatively modest shifts. It’s important to note, by the way, that the poll was in the field both before and after DeSantis’s announcement, suggesting that the launch itself probably didn’t play much of a role.

McLaughlin does not appear to have “corrected” its Iowa poll. Founder John McLaughlin mentioned no such shift on social media. Trump may, instead, have been confusing McEnany’s numbers with national numbers from McLaughlin that show Trump up by more than 30 points. The FiveThirtyEight national average has Trump up by 34 points, too.

Again, though, this discrepancy seems like a strange reason for Trump to go full RINO on McEnany. After echoing the then-consensus on Trump soon after his campaign launch in 2015 — his comments about immigrants were unacceptable, etc. — McEnany quickly found her niche as a fervently pro-Trump voice on CNN. Eventually, she ended up serving as Trump’s press secretary, quietly leaving the White House a few days before Joe Biden’s inauguration. She was, by all outside perceptions, a loyalist.

McEnany did, however, respond to a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol. Sections of her videotaped depositions were shown during the committee’s hearings, events that Trump and his allies despised. Her text messages with other people during that period, like Fox News host Sean Hannity, became public.

More recently, McEnany triggered anger from Trumpworld (if not Trump himself) by having the temerity to praise comments from former vice president Mike Pence. That she is now an employee of Fox News — seen by many Trump allies as unacceptably disloyal to the former president — contributed to that blowback.

While the McEnany-Trump spat is at this point one-sided, a slew of communications and other former staffers have decamped for DeSantis’s presidential bid or have gone public as Trump critics. There’s Alyssa Farah Griffin, who criticized Trump’s actions (or lack thereof) on Jan. 6 after working with McEnany in the White House. (A “sleazebag,” Trump dubbed her.) Sarah Matthews, who came to the White House with McEnany, offered in-person testimony before the committee and has appeared on television since.


The list goes on. Steve Cortes, who became well-known in MAGAland for his whiteboard explanations of how Trump would prevail after the 2020 election ended, endorsed DeSantis. Jenna Ellis, the attorney who joined former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in events aimed at overturning the 2020 results, has defended DeSantis against Trump’s attacks. Erin Perrine, a communications staffer for Trump, went to a DeSantis super PAC.

Trump’s attack on McEnany was for something much less egregious, offering accurate poll numbers — from his own pollster! — in the context of his still leading Iowa “hugely.” But Trump could not have loved the coverage regardless, given that McEnany was there to fill time before DeSantis began speaking and Fox News flipped to carry the Florida governor live. Perhaps he was simply frustrated with what Fox was doing and took it out on McEnany.

Or perhaps there was some other frustration serving as an undercurrent.

If his goal was to have McEnany resume her old role as a rubber-stamp for his false claims, though, it didn’t work. McEnany filled in as host for Laura Ingraham’s show a few hours later, during which she in interviewed Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) about the presidential nominating fight unfolding in her state.

Reynolds said the sort of things that Iowa politicians say about the Iowa caucuses: Iowans want to hear from candidates, you got to shake hands in every county, they “know their stuff,” etc. The standard patter.

Then McEnany asked Reynolds to weigh in on polling.

“Let’s pop up the RealClearPolitics average there in your state,” McEnany said. “It has Trump pretty much trouncing DeSantis by 22 points. This is in your state; it’s the average.” A graphic showing the current averages popped up; it does indeed show Trump leading by 22 points.


“You’ve said, though, that things happen, anything can change, you just have to stay in the game, you have to be viable,” McEnany continued. “So you think these numbers could shift at some point?”

Sure, Reynolds said, pointing out past campaigns in which early leaders later fell by the wayside. She might also have pointed out that the average depends on only three polls, one of which is more than a month old, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point here is that McEnany’s response to Trump attacking her was to note that, actually, an objective measure of his position in Iowa shows him doing worse than that poll from his pollster. Not as energetic a segment as her exchange with Watters, but, in one sense, a sharper one.

Source: Washington Post

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