Trump keeps tight grip on GOP

Trump keeps tight grip on GOP
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants 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 Randall MeadowsRep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt 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.

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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) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate 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 BluntMcConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal McConnell: Senate will hold election security briefing MORE of Missouri) to former presidential rivals-turned-allies (Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE of Florida and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales MORE of Kentucky) and a former GOP presidential nominee (Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' 'Landslide' for Biden? A look at 40 years of inaccurate presidential polls MORE of Utah).

But only one of the dozen GOP rebels is up for reelection next year: Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE of Maine, a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonYoung Turks founder says Democrats should avoid repeat of 2016 and pick a progressive Young Turks founder says Democrats should avoid repeat of 2016 and pick a progressive Trump highlights polls that showed Clinton beating him by double digits 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 Scott GardnerMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (R-Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyDemocratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  MORE (R-Ariz.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump hit with fierce backlash over interference remarks 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 WalkerTillis dodges primary challenge in NC Tillis dodges primary challenge in NC The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa 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 FlakeDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment 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 CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (Tenn.), who likened Trump’s White House to an “adult day care center.”

And Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment 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 GrahamMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate 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 PelosiPelosi hits Trump on health care: His 'cruel hypocrisy knows no bounds' Pelosi hits Trump on health care: His 'cruel hypocrisy knows no bounds' On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill 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 ScaliseThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate Scalise marks two years since shooting: 'I'm still here today getting to do the job I love' 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."