GOP in bind over Trump as corporate donations freeze
Republicans are in a bind as they consider how to move on from President Trump, who has passionate support from a large chunk of the party but has become completely toxic in the eyes of more traditional Republicans.
Washington Republicans are urging the party to cut ties completely with Trump over his role in the deadly riot that consumed Capitol Hill last week as corporations halt donations.
Some say Trump and his brand can have no future in GOP politics if the party is to survive given his increasingly toxic image with women, suburban voters, moderates and independents.
Yet Trump maintains undying loyalty from at least a third of Republicans, and he would be the overwhelming favorite to win the GOP presidential primary if it were held today.
He just won the second-most popular votes in a presidential election in U.S. history, with Republican gaining seats in the House. It’s another reason why Trump remains more popular in the lower chamber of Congress than in the Senate, where many Republicans blame him for costing the GOP majority when it lost two Georgia Senate runoff races earlier this month.
Trump advisers and allies continue to put the pressure on Republicans to stay loyal, even as Trump himself has had his Twitter megaphone shut off.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign who remains in touch with the president, said the 10 House GOP lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump this week had gravely misread where Republicans stand outside of Washington.
“Any Republican House or Senate member who votes for impeachment is likely serving their last term,” Miller said.
He called Trump “the biggest draw in American politics” and vowed that he would have “a very robust social media effort again in no time.”
Few Republicans are disputing Trump’s power within the GOP, but many still seem to hope he’ll disappear.
Freshman Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, said Trump’s actions were so abhorrent that he must have no future in Republican politics. She said the GOP must harness his brand of populism while separating themselves from the president.
“I think the principles and ideas he espoused we’re going to have to champion in the future, but without his support, his brand or his name,” Mace said. “It’s tarnished. I don’t know how you defend what he did last week by any means.”
Some believe the GOP needs Trump to energize the grassroots and turn out the working-class voters. Others believe he’s so poisonous to moderate voters that the party will never be competitive unless he is completely excised.
Since Trump became president, Republicans have lost the House, Senate and White House.
Senate Republicans will have the chance to cast Trump out of the party should they vote with Democrats to convict the president in his upcoming impeachment trial. A conviction would require at least 17 GOP votes and could lead to a separate vote to bar him from holding office ever again.
It’s unquestionable that some Republican senators will vote to convict Trump, but his fate is likely to come down to long-time politicians such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is on the ballot in 2022 in a state Trump won easily in November.
Following Wednesday’s House vote to impeach Trump, Portman, who worked in President George W. Bush’s administration, said his vote would be based in part on “what is best to help heal our country rather than deepen our divisions.”
Polls show Trump’s support within the GOP has slipped since the riots. A Morning Consult survey found that 77 percent of Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing, an 8-point drop since the siege on Capitol Hill.
Still, a Quinnipiac poll found that only 17 percent of Republicans hold Trump responsible for the riots. Sixty-four percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s behavior, according to Axios-Ipsos.
The overall sense from Republicans outside of Washington was that while the riots were inexcusable, Trump was not responsible for inciting the unrest. They argue Democrats are unfairly attacking the president.
“This idea that there is a Republican civil war is mostly in D.C.,” said Seth Weathers, a GOP operative in Georgia. “I don’t think there’s a civil war in the minds of most Republicans. The GOP primary base continues to be very pro-Trump, and they’re angrier than ever at Washington and their elected officials. The mindset in 2022 will very much be to throw the bums out, and I think there’s a good chance we’ll see more primary challenges to sitting Republicans in 2022 than we’ve ever had before.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in the House, could be a top target. The Wyoming Republican Party released a statement on Wednesday saying her vote to impeach had unleashed incredible anger from grass-roots Republicans in a state Trump won by 40 points.
“There has not been a time during our tenure when we have seen this type of an outcry from our fellow Republicans, with the anger and frustration being palpable in the comments we have received,” the state party said.
Yet there is no question the national party will take the cutting of donations seriously, particularly if it continues. Numerous major corporations have said they won’t donate to lawmakers who objected to certifying the electoral results last week.
Disney, Amazon, Marriott, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America are among the groups that have said they will stop contributing to candidates who opposed the certification. That would cover a majority of the House GOP, including its two leaders.
It’s unclear whether that will injure the Trump wing of the party. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel was unanimously reelected to lead the party despite the GOP losing the White House and Senate last cycle.
“The people who elevated Trump are still in control of the state parties. They still don’t trust establishment Republicans. They’re not ready to let go of the party. These decisions are being driven at the grassroots level much more than at the national level,” said Dan Eberhart, a GOP fundraiser who has been critical of Trump’s post-election conduct.
“The Republican Party is no longer run by the elites in Washington,” he said. “It’s run by the grassroots activists at the state level, and they aren’t listening to Washington.”
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