Trump keeps tight grip on GOP

Trump keeps tight grip on GOP
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President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president 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 MeadowsBen Shapiro: No prominent GOP figure ever questioned Obama's legitimacy Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' Gun store billboard going after the 'Squad' being removed following backlash 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 MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 BluntGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad MORE of Missouri) to former presidential rivals-turned-allies (Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE of Florida and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGraham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Rand Paul to 'limit' August activities due to health MORE of Kentucky) and a former GOP presidential nominee (Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery' A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE of Utah).

But only one of the dozen GOP rebels is up for reelection next year: Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins downplays 2020 threat: 'Confident' re-election would go well if she runs Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE of Maine, a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Polls flash warning signs for Trump Polls suggest Sanders may be underestimated 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 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 GardnerPoll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (R-Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Arizona poll shows Kelly overtaking McSally MORE (R-Ariz.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies 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 WalkerOn The Money: House passes sweeping budget, debt limit deal | Dem court filing defends powers to get Trump's NY tax returns | Debt collectors to pay M to settle consumer bureau charges House passes sweeping budget, debt limit deal Romney to vote against budget deal: Agreement 'perpetuates fiscal recklessness' 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 FlakeAnti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid Arpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument 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 CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (Tenn.), who likened Trump’s White House to an “adult day care center.”

And Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordScaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump Sunday shows - Recession fears dominate Possible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat 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 GrahamGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week 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 PelosiGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump 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 ScaliseManchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Sunday shows - Trump's Epstein conspiracy theory retweet grabs spotlight Sanders: Trump doesn't 'want to see somebody get shot' but 'creates the climate for it' 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."