Trump keeps tight grip on GOP

Trump keeps tight grip on GOP
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers 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 MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Mueller report poses new test for Dems Washington in frenzy over release of Mueller report 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) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying MORE of Missouri) to former presidential rivals-turned-allies (Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Cuban negotiator says Trump's efforts to destabilize Cuba's government will fail Freedom to Compete Act would benefit many American workers MORE of Florida and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulBooker, Harris have missed most Senate votes Trump vetoes measure ending US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen Bottom line MORE of Kentucky) and a former GOP presidential nominee (Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Pelosi downplays impeachment post-Mueller report MORE of Utah).

But only one of the dozen GOP rebels is up for reelection next year: Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump MORE of Maine, a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump rips Krugman, NYT after columnist writes GOP no longer believes in American values Klobuchar jokes to Cuomo: 'I feel you creeping over my shoulder' but 'not in a Trumpian manner' Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment 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 GardnerOn The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle McConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Cain withdraws from Fed consideration MORE (R-Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing MORE (R-Ariz.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies Pro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 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 WalkerMembers spar over sexual harassment training deadline Colorado state senators plan to introduce bill to let NCAA athletes get paid Republicans offer 'free market alternative' to paid family leave 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 FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family 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 CorkerPollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump on tariffs MORE (Tenn.), who likened Trump’s White House to an “adult day care center.”

And Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans Mark Sanford warns US could see ‘Hitler-like character’ in the future 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 GrahamIf you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again Graham challenges Dems to walk the walk on impeachment Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Julián Castro: Trump should be impeached for trying to obstruct justice 'in very concrete ways' Swalwell on impeachment: 'We're on that road' after Mueller report 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 Scalise20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform GOP to launch discharge petition on anti-BDS measure This week: Democrats revive net neutrality fight 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."