President Trump isn’t letting the 2016 election go.
Twice on Monday — on Twitter and then at his Rose Garden news conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.) — the president jabbed at his vanquished opponent, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE.
The attacks irk Democrats and independent critics, who note that past presidents have generally avoided public gloating about their victories after Election Day.
“He is the only person who — after he has won — is conducting a negative campaign against his opponent,” said Democratic strategist Robert Shrum.
Sources in Trump’s orbit offer a wide range of reasons why he is unwilling to let the campaign drift into the past.
They cite his taste for battle, the overall pride he takes in his victory and their sense that he likes having a foil against whom he can contrast himself.
Some say that he also considers his defeat of Clinton, against almost all predictions, as Exhibit A in his broader argument that pollsters and his media critics are detached from the realities of American life.
But even if those are all part of Trump’s motivation, his attacks on Clinton may also carry some political benefits.
Few things unite a fractious Republican Party more than hostility toward Clinton.
And even though the Democrat is beloved among her base, it is a different story among the population at large.
In June, Gallup found that Clinton was seen unfavorably by 57 percent of Americans and favorably by just 41 percent.
The polling organization noted that “Over the past quarter century, the favorable ratings of losing presidential candidates generally have increased after the election. … But for Clinton, this has not been the case. Seven months after her failed bid for the presidency, she remains as unpopular now as she was then.”
To that extent, at least, Trump may gain by continuing to bang the 2016 drum.
On Monday morning, he tweeted, “I was recently asked if Crooked Hillary Clinton is going to run in 2020? My answer was, ‘I hope so!’ ”
In the Rose Garden, he was asked about remarks Clinton had made defending NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality.
At one point he interrupted the questioner, John Roberts of Fox News, to say, “Hillary, please run again!”
Moments later, he added that if Clinton denied that taking a knee during the national anthem was disrespectful, “then I fully understand why she didn’t win. … I mean, look there are a lot of reasons she didn’t win, including the fact that she was not good at what she did.”
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager in the 2016 race, told The Hill that Trump was a “counter-puncher” who was only returning fire at Clinton.
In Lewandowski’s view, Clinton has sought to avoid culpability for her own defeat in her public statements and in her recently published book, “What Happened.” The book has been accompanied by a transatlantic publicity tour, which has seen Clinton take more jabs at Trump.
During a British TV interview broadcast Sunday, Clinton reacted to the current allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein — a friend and past donor to her campaigns — by saying in part, “After all, we have someone admitting to being a sexual assaulter in the Oval Office.”
Clinton was alluding to the lewd “Access Hollywood” tape, unearthed during the campaign, in which Trump boasted of a grabbing woman by the genitals.
“What you saw from Hillary Clinton over the weekend were personal attacks on the president,” Lewandowski said. “Hillary Clinton continues to push the narrative that the election was stolen from her, when in fact she was a terrible candidate with a terrible campaign that lost in places where a Democrat had not lost in 30 years.”
Trump’s fixation on 2016 has led to plenty of unusual moments.
According to a Reuters report in April, Trump stopped midway through a conversation with Chinese president Xi Jinping to hand out copies of the electoral map.
“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” Reuters quoted Trump as saying. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”
Last month, Trump retweeted an internet meme altered so it appeared to show him hitting Clinton with a golf ball.
And back in February, Trump erroneously claimed at a White House news conference that he had won the biggest Electoral College victory since President Reagan.
When the inaccuracy was called out by one reporter present, Trump shot back, “It was a substantial victory. You do agree with that?”
Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said Trump’s refrains about Clinton could help him in some quarters.
“The base likes him fighting. To fight you need enemies. Going back to the campaign reminds you of Enemy Number One,” he said.
But he cautioned that the gambit could be much less effective beyond the audience of Trump loyalists.
“I think it hurts him with the rest of the country because it seems petty and almost irrelevant,” Zelizer said. “People want to see if they have a competent president. They’re asking ‘Does he have the gravitas needed?’ And he is going back to ‘Crooked Hillary.’ ”
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE’s presidency.