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Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors

The war between former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Klain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the filibuster MORE (R-Ky.) is likely to turn into a battle over money as Republican donors will be forced to choose between Trump-backed and GOP-establishment candidates.

The fundraising rift could prove detrimental to Republicans, who are seeking to flip both the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

Trump blasted McConnell this week after the Senate GOP leader said Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 riot. Trump vowed to back primary opponents who are more aligned with his base, setting up a battle over the future of the Republican party.

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Many Republican donors are avoiding taking sides publicly for now, but strategists see signs of things to come in 2022 and 2024.

“I think as long as Republicans are out there talking about our own primaries and not talking about [President] Biden and Democratic policies, we’re losing,” a longtime GOP donor said. “Dem money’s going to flow; I think the worry will be some of the GOP money will sit on the sidelines, even the big establishment money, until Republicans get their act together.”

Two Republican senators who voted to convict Trump, Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrRick Scott caught in middle of opposing GOP factions Bipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks Republicans, please save your party MORE (N.C.), are not running for reelection in 2022, leaving open two swing state seats. Another vote to convict came from Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Increased security on Capitol Hill amid QAnon's March 4 date MORE (R-Alaska), who faces reelection next year.

Some donors are pushing back against the idea that Trump-base candidates have a chance in swing states.

“I think McConnell wins with the legitimate GOP donors. And he wins in the long run. Ex-President Trump lost Georgia, and the Senate, period. And the White House, legitimately. The GOP base is ready and needs to move on; the ex-President’s base — which is not a real Republican base — maybe not so much, but they’ve lost the podium,” said a former corporate PAC director.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief House Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal MORE (R-S.C.) sees it differently. On Saturday, he called Lara TrumpLara TrumpWhy Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors Graham: Lara Trump is biggest winner of impeachment trial MORE, Trump’s daughter-in-law, the “biggest winner of this whole impeachment trial.” She is expected to run for Burr’s open seat and Graham said that Burr's vote to convict made her “almost the certain nominee.”

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But GOP strategist Karl RoveKarl Christian RoveThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill The Memo: Is Trump mounting a comeback — or finally fading? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help MORE backed McConnell in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday, writing that “in suggesting that Senate Republicans oust Mr. McConnell, Mr. Trump is setting himself up for defeat.”

“I think McConnell believes there’s no way to get the 51 with Trump,” a longtime GOP donor said of flipping the Senate. “You nominate a really Trumpy person in Pennsylvania, you’re going to get crushed like Rick Santorum did.”

McConnell’s strategy is to ignore Trump after the former president bashed him in a statement this week, a plan that could help Republicans in 2022.

But there is plenty of time for Trump World to rally behind the former president's next move.

Unlike McConnell, House GOP leadership isn’t distancing themselves from the former president. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWatch live: McCarthy holds press briefing Biden vows to work with Congress to 'refine' voting rights bill House passes voting rights and elections reform bill MORE (R-Calif.) visited him in Mar-a-Lago late January and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseBiden's COVID, border policies prove he's serious about neither Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC Merrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat MORE (R-La.) went to Mar-a-Lago this week.

“McConnell’s strategy is we can’t win with Trump,” a longtime GOP donor said. “I think McConnell would argue, I lost the Senate by hugging Trump in the first place, Republicans should have won Georgia but Trump's strategy was hug Trump and be as Trumpy as you can be. And, Republicans ended up losing the suburbs.”

There has been backlash to Trump's strategy. Since the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, a wave of companies have declared they will not donate to any of the 147 Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, posing another threat to Republicans in 2022.

But corporate PAC donations are small compared to the amount given by mega donors and how much money Trump can stir up from his base in grassroots donations.

Mega donors will be crucial to helping Republicans in 2022, as long as they can navigate the growing divide in the party.

Mega donors like Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone Group, and Pat Ryan, founder of Aon, both backed Republicans in the Georgia runoffs this year. Spokespeople for them declined to comment on whether they would give money to pro-Trump candidates or candidates that McConnell supports in 2022.

Other GOP mega donors who gave in the Georgia runoffs, Warren Stephens of the Stephens Inc., and Kenneth Langone and Bernie Marcus, Home Depot co-founders, also declined to comment on 2022 plans.

GOP donors who backed Trump, as well as former Republican presidential nominees Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Romney's TRUST Act is a Trojan Horse to cut seniors' benefits Republicans, please save your party MORE (Utah) and the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFormer Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute We need an independent 1/6 commission that the whole country can have confidence in GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra MORE, and former President George W. Bush, said they are largely focused on winning back Congress in 2022.

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A Republican lobbyist and former George W. Bush and Romney bundler said GOP donors will turn out for Republicans regardless of the candidates, especially looking ahead to the 2024 presidential race.

"You may even prefer Trump but at the end of the day, let’s say Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyTrump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC The Memo: Is Trump mounting a comeback — or finally fading? Haley praises Trump CPAC speech after breaking with him over Capitol riot MORE or [Sen.] Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonRepublicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks MORE (R-Ark.) is the nominee, you’re really going to sit on your check book because your favorite candidate didn’t make it to the finish line? There are very few Republicans who predicted Trump would be the nominee but when push came to shove, he got enough of their money. They didn’t all sit on the sidelines," the source said.

David Tamasi, a longtime Republican donor and co-founder of Chartwell Strategy Group, also suggested Republican candidates would get GOP support no matter their position along the Trump-McConnell divide.

“We're very early in the cycle and we got a long way to go. Let’s see who the candidates are, let’s see who wins some of these primaries, let's see where some of these elections are. I'm pretty confident that at the end of the day, whoever the Republican nominees are in these respective states, they will have more than what they will need in terms of money to win,” he said.

Ken Kies, managing director of the Federal Policy Group and a former George W. Bush bundler, predicted Republican donors will support candidates "that they think can win."

“I don’t think it’s going to largely come down to what jersey you’re wearing," he said.