Trump keeps tight grip on GOP

Trump keeps tight grip on GOP
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report 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 MeadowsAtlanta airport checkpoint closed after worker tests positive for coronavirus House Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks 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) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Senate GOP starting to draft next coronavirus proposal MORE of Missouri) to former presidential rivals-turned-allies (Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump administration eyes new strategy on COVID-19 tests ACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names MORE of Florida and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP Arizona lawmaker says Fauci and Birx 'undermine' Trump's coronavirus response Fauci: 'We are not going in the right direction' FBI says Breonna Taylor case is 'top priority' for Louisville agents MORE of Kentucky) and a former GOP presidential nominee (Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators aim to limit Trump's ability to remove troops from Germany MORE of Utah).

But only one of the dozen GOP rebels is up for reelection next year: Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE of Maine, a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarville repeats prediction that Trump will drop out of race What's behind Trump's slump? Americans are exhausted, for one thing Trump campaign reserves air time in New Mexico 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 GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Hickenlooper beats back progressive challenge in Colorado primary MORE (R-Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Political establishment takes a hit as chaos reigns supreme MORE (R-Ariz.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Poll: Biden, Trump locked in neck-and-neck battle for North Carolina GOP senator: Russia should be labeled state sponsor of terrorism if intelligence is accurate 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 WalkerPence confidant helps 24-year-old beat Trump-backed candidate Rubio to introduce bill allowing NCAA athletes to make money from name, likeness Democrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard 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 FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism 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 CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (Tenn.), who likened Trump’s White House to an “adult day care center.”

And Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama The Memo: Can the Never Trumpers succeed? 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 GrahamHillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse The Hill's Campaign Report: The political heavyweights in Tuesday's primary fights 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 PelosiMilitary bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation Pelosi: Trump 'himself is a hoax' Women must continue to persist to rise as political leaders of America 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 ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up 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."