On Donald Trump’s Failure and His Implications for the Party’s Future: A Postmortem Analysis of a Republican Senate Candidate
In interviews following the midterm elections, some former and current Republican members of Congress wouldn’t commit to a Donald Trump bid for the presidency in 2024.
With the results still being counted in several states, a number of sitting and former lawmakers took aim at the former president for the party’s subpar results.
On Houston Morning News, Rep. Troy Nehls said “there’s just a lot of negative attitudes about Trump.” The Texas conservative had endorsed Trump before he was president of the United States.
Rick Santorum said that it was time to move on after he compared President Donald Trump to God on a conservative radio station.
“He changed, he transformed the Republican party, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the right guy to actually lead the party going forward into an era of governance and prosperity,” Santorum said.
Mehmet Oz, Adam Laxalt and the other Republican Senate candidates that were supported by Trump lost to their Democratic opponents. Herschel Walker, a long-time supporter of Donald Trump, is headed for a December runoff after he failed to get 50% of the vote.
Walberg hopes that President Trump does a postmortem as he moves forward and thinks about what this means to his message.
The divisions were certain to consume the House as well, as Representative Kevin McCarthy is trying to rally support behind his bid to be speaker of the House. McCarthy must be more certain that he supports President Trump in the future according to a strategist assisting Mr. Trump.
Some of the Republicans speaking out now have previously enabled Mr. Trump and his policies, either through public support or silence. They were afraid of crossing the party’s base, even though they long privately claimed to disdain Mr. Trump’s politics.
Republicans are on tenterhooks as they wait to find out if Democrats will keep control of the Senate in the 118th Congress, an outcome that has fractured them and left the party uncertain as Trump prepares to make a major announcement.
Since Tuesday’s election, The Wall Street Journal editorial page and The New York Post — owned by the conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch — have called for Mr. Trump to be tossed aside. Both Winsome Sears of Virginia and Robin Vos of Wisconsin said Mr. Trump shouldn’t be the party’s nominee.
Republican moderates used the moment to bemoan the party’s plunge into conspiracy theories and divisive issues that light up the right-wing media. Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, called for a return to classic fiscal conservatism. Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire said during a SiriusXM Radio interview Friday that Mr. Trump risked “mucking up” the party’s chances of winning in Georgia.
And Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who spoke at a Trump rally in Sioux City days before the election, said on Twitter that it was time to move on from Mr. Trump’s pet issue. “Quit talking abt 2020,” he wrote.
Many House and Senate Republicans recoiled on Monday at the prospect of former President Donald Trump launching a third run for the presidency this week, a sign of his waning support on Capitol Hill after years of controversy and scandal and following their party’s disappointing midterm performance.
“I want someone who is going to unite our party,” said South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, refusing to say if he would back Trump. That is how we win elections. A reasonable person who would unite the party.”
Simpson added: “Let’s see who runs.” I think it’s not good for the party. … I think his policies were good. I don’t need any of the drama with it.
That sentiment was echoed up and down-the-line by one-time allies of the former president – underscoring how the de facto leader of their party has grown increasingly alienated on Capitol Hill – especially after last Tuesday’s elections.
The next Republican presidential candidate is coming from Washington, Sen. Kevin Cramer, and Rep. John Moran, a Democratic senator, and a fellow Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo
“None of us are entitled to these jobs,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Trump ally and North Dakota Republican when asked about the likely 2024 bid. “He’s certainly not entitled to it. I will not make a decision on endorsing this soon.
Others began floating rival candidates. Republican Sen. Jerry Moran said that he had his eyes on a few other people, including fellow Kansan and ex-secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
“I think we have lots of Republicans who are interested in being our nominee for president,” Moran said when asked about Trump. I would like for the Americans to make the decision. Those people will rise to the top, and I am interested in that.
Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, a Florida Republican, dodged on whether she would support Trump and said: “Let me tell you something: I do know the next Republican presidential contender is coming from Florida.” Ron DeSantis, the newly reelected governor of the state, is being considered a favorite among Washington Republicans.
Several Republicans on Monday blamed Trump for pushing forward lackluster candidates and obsessing about his 2020 election loss as undercutting the case they tried to make against Democrats this year.
John Thune said that it is clear that the 2020 election is not a winning strategy.
Looking forward is always a better campaign strategy, said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. “Looking back to 2020 obviously didn’t work out.”
The private view was harsher. One moderate-leaning GOP lawmaker said of a Trump presidential bid: “It’s like we’re on season 7, 8 of ‘The Apprentice.’ People are sick of it, they want to turn the channel. Let’s look for something else.
Romney said that election denying by President Trump was a big problem for Republicans. I believe he has been on the mountain too long. We’ve lost three races with him. I wish to see someone from the bench replace him as party leader and help lead the country.
With his base firmly intact, Trump will face many obstacles during the months to come even if he is successful in his quest to return to the White House. He has spent the days since the midterm elections fending off criticism from fellow Republicans over his ill-fated involvement in key contests, furiously lashing out at two GOP heavyweights who could complicate his path to the White House if they mount their own presidential campaigns, and fretting that he or associates could soon be indicted by federal investigators in two separate Justice Department probes.
Some of Trump’s closest allies said Republicans should brace for a significant escalation in his attacks on rumored GOP challengers once he is a declared presidential contender, meaning he could ramp up his criticism of DeSantis, Youngkin or others while the party is fighting for Walker’s survival in Georgia.
“I Endorsed him, did a very big Trump Rally for him telephonically, got MAGA to Vote for him – or he couldn’t have come close to winning,” Trump said of Youngkin in a Truth Social post last week.
A true leader can understand when they have become a liability, according to Earle-Sears. A true leader understands that it’s time to step off the stage, and the voters have given us that very clear message.”
According to one of the former president’s aides, Sears did not tell The Washington Post whether Youngkin knew about her planned split from Trump prior to the interview.
“If Glenn Youngkin decides to run for president, that’s his choice. But Team Trump will certainly mount a massive effort to win the Virginia delegates going to Milwaukee that is going to embarrass Youngkin,” said John Fredericks, a Virginia-based conservative radio host who chaired Trump’s campaigns in the state in 2016 and 2020.
The brand of politics Trump brings to the campaign trail, without regard to how it might affect his own party, stood out as a stark reminder of what he is all about. His first use of “DeSanctimonious” came just days before the Florida governor appeared on the ballot in his bid for reelection. And much to the chagrin of top Republicans, including some of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, his Tuesday announcement comes as the party looks to prevent Senate Democrats from securing a 51-seat majority through the Georgia runoff.
He feels there is no need to wait, even though he knows there are a lot of criticism and people who want to focus on Georgia. If Herschel loses, he’ll be blamed for distracting from the runoff but if he wins, he doesn’t believe he will get any credit for energizing the base,” said a current Trump adviser.
“Nobody should be surprised. This is how Trump does primaries,” said Michael Caputo, a former Trump administration official who remains close to the former president. “The question you have to ask is whether this format can work for him again.”
Many polls show that the Republican Party may be in trouble, and that Ron DeSantis is gaining support. A University of New Hampshire poll last week showed Trump leading the Florida governor 42% to 30% in the state’s likely GOP voters. A CNN/SSRS poll in December found that about 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents wanted their party to nominate someone other than Trump in 2024.
“One of our biggest challenges will be the fundraising component but I do think [Trump] has proved that he doesn’t need deep-pocketed donors, per se,” said a person close to Trump, noting the enduring strength of his small-dollar operation.
There is a lack of seasoned campaign operatives willing to join his next campaign due to the donor challenges and questions about his stature, according to some of his allies. Though the president wants to keep his operation lean, some people have privately wondered if it’s out of preference or due to recruitment troubles. CNN has previously reported that Trump’s likely campaign is expected to be helmed by three current advisers – Susie Wiles, Chris LaCivita and Brian Jack – with assistance from a group of additional aides and advisers with whom the former president is already familiar. Overall, his 2024 apparatus is expected to dwarf in comparison to his reelection campaign two years ago, multiple sources said.
Either way, as Trump works to find his footing on the verge of a presidential campaign that could coast to the party’s nominating convention or encounter any number of unforeseen troubles, allies who have stuck by his side said they are ready for battle one last time.
What Will Happen if Former President Trump Can Win the Republican Primary in Granite State? An Analysis by CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union”
While DeSantis is a formidable potential candidate on paper, he would have to develop the capacity to defend himself from Trump’s fearsome debate stage broadsides, as well as a rhetorical nimbleness that he hasn’t yet shown. He’d also have to fend off Trump without alienating the parts of the GOP base that retain almost mythical devotion to the former president.
There was also something jarring about a former president who tried to steal the last election – and incited an insurrection to try to cling to power – campaigning and being embraced by supporters as if nothing happened.
It’s clear that Trump believes he deserves the Republican nomination and believes that a lot of people in his party are not very appreciative of what he has done.
Trump’s musings about loyalty also recall his attack on evangelical leaders earlier this month, whom he said showed “disloyalty” by refusing to support his 2024 bid so far despite his delivery of a generational conservative Supreme Court majority. The comments were a reminder of Trump’s transactional view of politics – and also that a man who dumped aides, staff and Cabinet members at a fearsome clip in office often tends to view loyalty as a purely one-way allegiance.
The federal government encouraged people to limit gatherings on beaches in March 2020, so it shut down bars and nightclubs. He allowed them to open again, even though federal government health officials had advised against it. The former president clearly wants to get to the right of the Florida governor on this issue, even though he was feuding with the Biden Administration over the Pandemic. In a GOP primary, challenging federal health advice could be a litmus test, but it isn’t clear if Trump’s incompetent handling of the Pandemic can be used against him in the election.
New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday that right now DeSantis would probably win the Granite State’s GOP primary. Sununu told Bash that he is considering his own White House bid in 2024 as well as taking jabs at Trump for his demeanor and the size of his event.
Judging by his remarks about DeSantis and evangelical leaders, Trump is not yet ready to acknowledge that reality. A visit to an ice cream parlor late in the day in South Carolina was unconventional and involved first- person contact with voters.
The future will be the focus of this campaign. This campaign will be about issues. Joe Biden has put America on the fast track to ruin and destruction and we will ensure that he does not receive four more years,” Trump said at a small event Saturday in the South Carolina State House.
He has not abandoned his standard rhetoric. On Sunday evening he called into a rally for one of the candidates that did not win in the election, such as failed Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake. And earlier on Saturday, in New Hampshire, the former president – who is facing criminal investigations by the Justice Department and a district attorney in Georgia over his attempt to overturn the 2020 election – could not resist taking aim at institutions that are revealing the true course of events in 2020.
Trump signaled that he would use his campaign and potential second presidency to try to thwart Justice Department efforts to enforce accountability over his election-stealing activity.
“We’re going to stop the appalling weaponization of our justice system. There’s never been a justice system like this. It’s all investigation, investigation,” Trump said. He said that his resistance to such probes was proof that the very quality that many Republicans embraced in 2016 helped propel him to the White House.
He told people Saturday that if they vote for him next year, he will challenge the entire establishment again.
The Time for a New Generation, or Is It Time for More Leadership? The Case of the Ex-President Donald J. Haley
The source said that Haley would launch her campaign in Charleston on February 15. A former secretary of state is promoting a book while making the kind of political throat clearing noises usually found in would-be candidates. Tim Scott is going on a listening tour of faith. early voting pillars that will highlight the GOP primary contest early next year are included in his first two stops.
It would be too much to say that his rivals sense weakness given the former president’s deeply loyal bond with activist Republicans who decide primaries. But Trump’s so-so fundraising to date, his low-energy launch last year and his infrequent campaign appearances underscore his electoral liabilities, especially after his often disastrous midterm interventions.
Still, having multiple rivals would help Trump, as it did in 2016, since the winner-take-all nature of most Republican primaries allows a candidate with a mere plurality of votes to build up big delegate leads in a crowded field.
If Trump can split the opposition, he can win the primary, but that’s not a guarantee of victory in the general election because of how much disgraced the former president left Washington after trying to steal an election.
Unlike many of his Cabinet members, she engineered a smooth exit from the Trump administration on her own terms. Her photo-ops in the Oval Office looked like potential footage for a future campaign. It could allow her to gently argue that it is time to move on from the former president and Biden without offending the Trump presidency and his fans.
“It is time for a new generation. It is time for more leadership. Haley said in a Fox News interview last month that they have lost the last seven popular votes for president. It’s time to get a Republican in there that will lead and win a general election.
Yet the most fundamental question that Haley will face is whether the Republican base, which has rewarded culture warriors, extreme “Make America Great Again” rhetoric and election denialists, has any interest at all in what she plans to sell.
Her credentials are not all that impressive when you consider the party she is trying to win the nomination for. Does the GOP really have a market for a more unified, multicultural, less strident delivery of Trump’sAmerica First creed? The ex-president’s bombast, profanity and laceration of liberal government and media elites create more of an emotional connection with his biggest fans than a directly ideological connection.
For instance, after leaving the administration on good terms, she rebuked her party for following Trump down a “path he shouldn’t have” taken with his election denialism that led to the January 6, 2021, insurrection. She changed her mind in October of 2020 because Trump was still powerful in the GOP.
Some are wondering how much of a support base she will get with her casting around for the nomination.
“I think there is just room for three candidates in this race. The more anti-Trumper – not a never Trumper, the Trump lite, which is where Ron DeSantis is, (and) Nikki Haley, and then Trump himself,” said former Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who is now a senior CNN political commentator. “Nikki Haley’s struggle is going to be: she’s been pro-Trump, anti-Trump, she said she isn’t going to run if he runs, now he is going to run. She doesn’t really have a natural constituency yet. She’s a smart lady, so we will see how she goes.”
I’ve been to both Iowa and New Hampshire. This is not random,” he said at a forum in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. “We’re just trying to figure our way through this. It is an unbelievably momentous decision to say you believe you should be the leader of the United States of America,” he added.
The Freedom Caucus: What Do Conservatives Really Need to Know to Preserve the Faith of the Former President? A Look at How President Pompeo and DeSantis Made Sense of Trump
But Pompeo – like Haley, Scott, ex-Vice President Mike Pence, more marginal candidates and even DeSantis, if he gets in the race – all face the same problem. They might not fear Trump, but that doesn’t mean they can beat him.
Many of the people who were among his most loyal allies told CNN that they were not ready to make a decision about his presidency. As the field develops, some of them are keeping their options open, but others are privately worried that Trump will blow up and hand President Joe Biden a fourth term in office.
“There’s a lot of good candidates and I want to take a look at” them, said Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican and House Freedom Caucus member who broke with Trump over certifying the 2020 election.
“Yeah, that’s a concern,” said Rep. Tim Burchett, a conservative Tennessee Republican who is neutral in the race when asked about Trump’s performance in the last three cycles. The leadership skills and put people in place are important, but sometimes their morals aren’t where they need them to be.
The apprehension over Trump inside the Freedom Caucus – a group that evolved from a conservative policy-centered crew to a Trump fan club over the years – is emblematic of the broader reservations inside the GOP over Trump’s electability. And it underscores the larger challenge that the former president faces to win back his coalition as many GOP officials – and voters – are eager to see a fresh face despite their support of his actions in office.
“It’s no secret that I was in West Palm this past weekend. I’m pretty impressed with the governor,” conservative Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, told CNN. “I’m going to do what I think is right, based on what is appropriate for the 750,000 people that I represent. That’s who I owe my allegiance to – not any individual, certainly not any politician.”
Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, a member of the Freedom Caucus, had praise for both DeSantis and Trump but said he would wait to see the field set before taking a position on the candidates.
Members of the Freedom Caucus went to Florida over the February congressional recess for a conservative policy conference, where they met with Ron DeSantis during their time there.
Several Republicans posed for photos with Ron DeSantis, the governor who just won a second term, and posted them to social media with glowing caption, raising some eyebrows in GOP circles.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who credited Trump with helping him win the gavel, has yet to weigh in on the burgeoning presidential primary field. Some Republican lawmakers, including the leader of the Freedom Caucus and a fervent Trump supporter, refused to talk about the primary.
“That’s way above my paygrade,” said Rep. Dan Bishop, a conservative from North Carolina, when asked about his favorite in the presidential race. I am just an obscure backbencher.
Haley is the only other major Republican candidate to officially jump into the race, and at least one prominent Trump backer, Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, has already thrown his weight behind her.
Norman said he feels we have to win the White House in 24 if we want to stop insanity before it starts. Over the next8 to 10 months,Nikki’s skills, personal magnetism, fighting spirit, and street sense will impress young, old, independents who will go to the polls.
Asked whether he’s worried about possible blowback from Trump, Norman said he had a pleasant phone call with a “benevolent” Trump about his endorsement – and made clear his decision to back Haley was not a personal slight against the former president.
To be sure, Trump has his fair share of loyal allies on Capitol Hill. A number of Republicans have already pledged their support to Trump, including Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Lauren Boebert of Colorado. And more are expected to follow suit, especially since Trump has built a lot of goodwill on Capitol Hill through playing in primaries.
I am with Trump out of the gate. I like Ron and several of the other guys too, but I’m with Trump out of the gate,” said Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana.
Still, the number of congressional endorsements is something that has been on the former president’s mind. A senior Republican source told CNN that people involved with Trump’s political operation have been whipping lawmakers on Capitol Hill to support him.
Rosendale said it was because he didn’t want to speak to Trump and that it was because he didn’t want to break the rules.