Trump keeps tight grip on GOP

Trump keeps tight grip on GOP
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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 has suffered a handful of high-profile legislative defeats in recent days. But you’d be mistaken to think Trump has lost his grip on the Grand Old Party.

Recent polls show that the president is still enormously popular among likely GOP voters — a fact GOP officeholders and those contemplating political bids in 2020 are well aware of.

“Trump’s endorsement is still the most sought-after thing for Republicans running for office. I’ve seen nothing that has equaled it in my political career,” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, told The Hill in a phone interview.

Those thinking about running for office for the first time in 2020 say they realize they need to closely align with Trump to be viable.

And few GOP incumbents facing tough races next year were willing to break with Trump even as some of their colleagues bucked the president on a series of high-profile issues.

The House voted 420-0 on a resolution urging special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE to make public his report on the Russia collusion investigation, which Trump has railed against as a “witch hunt.”

Separately, the Senate on Wednesday voted to halt U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia's military campaign in the Yemeni civil war. Seven Republicans joined the Democrats in that vote, an unmistakable rebuke of Trump for his unwavering support of Saudi Arabia after the royal family there was implicated in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The very next day, 12 Republicans joined the Democrats to rebuke Trump once again. This time, the Senate voted 59-41 to block Trump’s emergency declaration to fund his border wall. The GOP defections ranged from members of leadership (Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntTop Republican: 'Outrageous' to extend National Guard deployment at Capitol Five takeaways from dramatic Capitol security hearing Biden convenes bipartisan meeting on cancer research MORE of Missouri) to former presidential rivals-turned-allies (Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China DeSantis's rising GOP profile fuels 2024 talk MORE of Florida and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHouse approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers House sets vote for George Floyd police reform bill MORE of Kentucky) and a former GOP presidential nominee (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 of Utah).

But only one of the dozen GOP rebels is up for reelection next year: Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMurkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy Republicans, please save your party MORE of Maine, a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Edie Falco to play Hillary Clinton in Clinton impeachment series White House defends Biden's 'Neanderthal thinking' remark on masks MORE carried in 2016 and where Trump remains unpopular.

Three other GOP senators with tough reelection bids in 2020 all lined up behind Trump in the final roll call: Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R-Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra House Freedom Caucus chair weighs Arizona Senate bid New rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees MORE (R-Ariz.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general GOP senators demand probe into Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths CNN anchor confronts GOP chairman over senator's vote to convict Trump MORE (R-N.C.).

Tillis’s vote in particularly was a sign of Trump’s continuing hold on his party.

Just weeks ago, Tillis made a big splash, writing in a Washington Post op-ed that he would buck Trump and vote with Democrats to halt the president’s unilateral action to fund his wall on the southern border, arguing that Article 1 of the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse.

But the move infuriated conservative Trump loyalists back home in the Tar Heel State, and conservative Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerNorth Carolina GOP condemns Burr for impeachment vote against Trump Madison Cawthorn throws support behind Mark Walker in NC Senate primary Democrat Jeff Jackson jumps into North Carolina Senate race MORE (R-N.C.), a Trump ally, began making noise about a primary challenge to Tillis.

Tillis “created a firestorm,” said one GOP operative from North Carolina. “People here see it as politically disloyal and undermining the Trump agenda.”

The senator promptly flip-flopped and voted “no” on the Democratic resolution.

Republicans don’t need to look far to see what happens to lawmakers who decide to go to war with Trump.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFormer GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Klain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' MORE (Ariz.), who once flirted with challenging Trump in the 2020 Republican primary, is no longer in the Senate. Neither is Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand MORE (Tenn.), who likened Trump’s White House to an “adult day care center.”

And Rep. Mark SanfordMark Sanford5 lawyers leave Trump impeachment team ahead of trial: reports South Carolina GOP votes to censure Rep. Rice over impeachment vote Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.), who liberally criticized Trump’s behavior and policies, was ousted last year in his primary race by a die-hard Trump supporter.

According to an Economist–YouGov poll last week, nearly 70 percent of likely Republican voters had a very favorable opinion of Trump, while nearly 90 percent of GOP voters had a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of him.

“Trump has a lockhold on 35 percent of voters, pure conservatives who are sick and tired of how things are done” in Washington, said one grass-roots conservative activist who is planning to run for Congress next year as a “Trump candidate.”

“That 35 percent 一 he’s already got their votes, so if any Republican plans to run for reelection, they know they cannot alienate that 35 percent.”

Trump allies on Capitol Hill rejected the notion that the House and Senate had truly “broken” with the president on the three votes last week, calling them messaging votes. The resolution to release the Mueller report was nonbinding and went nowhere in the Senate, thanks to an objection from a key Trump ally, 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.). Trump vetoed the border wall resolution and has threatened to veto the Saudi resolution as well.

Still, there will be more loyalty tests in the weeks ahead. Looking for ways to exploit GOP divisions, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Top Republican: 'Outrageous' to extend National Guard deployment at Capitol Progressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks MORE (D-Calif.) will soon call a vote to override Trump’s veto of the resolution blocking the president’s declared national emergency on the southern border.

GOP leaders saw 13 defections last month when the Democratic-led House initially voted to stop Trump’s emergency declaration. For the veto override, 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.), the top Republican vote-counter, will be looking to keep those defections at roughly the same number.

“Our House Republican conference has stood strongly with President Trump on securing our nation’s border from Day One, and we supported the emergency declaration by an overwhelming margin,” said Scalise, who is also close to Trump. “That support has not wavered, and will be demonstrated strongly when we defeat Speaker Pelosi’s attempt to override the President’s veto."