Republican senators fear President Trump and their party are losing the public opinion fight over impeachment.

Many in the GOP think House Democrats are playing politics with impeachment and that Trump’s actions don’t merit impeachment. They also think the media is biased against the White House and the president.

All the same, they think they’re losing the public battle and that Trump’s lack of discipline is hurting them.

{mosads}“Does he need to be so unhinged? He says the dumbest things,” said one Republican senator who vented frustration with the president’s outbursts on Twitter and in front of the White House press corps.

“Yeah, there needs to be a coordinated response to everything. There needs to be a coordinated effort to just shut up,” the senator said.

GOP lawmakers say that President Trump and his political team need to overhaul their strategy to regain momentum and prevent their party from losing the White House and a number of congressional seats next fall.

They say the White House’s efforts so far not only could limit Trump to one term, but could spell doom for vulnerable Senate GOP incumbents such as Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Thom Tillis (N.C.).

A veteran Republican strategist who advises on third-party independent TV expenditures told The Hill Wednesday that he thinks Trump’s reelection chances are well below 50 percent because his “negatives are so high.”

The strategist acknowledged, however, that many of his peers argue the 2020 battle for the White House is still a 50-50 proposition.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s most vociferous defenders on impeachment who is offering a resolution to condemn the House impeachment effort, said the White House needs to step up its game.

“What’s missing here I think is that coordinated effort to put somebody in charge of developing a message and delivering it. I believe that’s about to be corrected, I hope,” he said Wednesday.

It’s notable that while 44 Senate Republicans on Thursday signed on to the resolution, nine other GOP senators did not: Collins, Gardner, Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.).

Republicans are concerned about new revelations and unforced errors over the past week that have given Democrats new momentum.

{mossecondads}One big moment came last week when acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said the administration withheld defense aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney declared at a press conference in a high-profile admission that left GOP lawmakers cringing.

Mulvaney later argued that his comments were misconstrued, but a bruising interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” showed the damage was done.

Another big moment came Tuesday when William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, delivered a damning 15-page opening statement to House investigators detailing a secretive effort led by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to use military assistance to Ukraine as political leverage.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican leader, later admitted to reporters the picture painted by Taylor’s testimony was worrying, even while he also criticized House Democrats for running the investigation behind closed doors.

“The picture coming out of it based on the reporting that we’ve seen is, yeah, I would say not a good one,” Thune told reporters Wednesday.

Trump’s actions at times have left his GOP allies dumbfounded, such as earlier this month when he called on Beijing to investigate the Bidens.

Even Graham admitted in an “Axios on HBO” interview that “that was stupid.”

And the president stepped in it again earlier this week when he compared the House impeachment inquiry to a “lynching,” a charged word that recalls the nation’s darkest episodes of racial violence.

Many Republicans scrambled to disavow Trump’s choice of words.

“Given the history of our country, I would not compare this to a lynching,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said somberly, reflecting broad dismay within his caucus over the language.

Other Trump allies say the president’s frequent zigging and zagging makes it tougher to defend him against Democratic attacks, even though they also acknowledge that past efforts to tamp down on Trump’s tweeting have proved unsuccessful.

“I think it could be helpful to have a more professional, coordinated communications effort. However, you have to be very careful to not prohibit Donald Trump from being Donald Trump and that’s the risk you run when you start institutionalizing these things,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).

But Cramer said Trump’s unpredictability makes it tougher for GOP allies to defend the president.

“The reason it’s difficult is sometimes he changes in midstream and when that happens you find yourself out on a limb that has suddenly been cut off,” he said. “The lack of that sort of institutional discipline does make it more difficult for the rest of us, if you will, as we’re trying to carry his message.”

Thune on Thursday expressed his hope the White House messaging operation would become more organized in the weeks ahead.

“It always is an advantage to make sure that you are as organized, prepared and coordinated as you possibly can be. And to the degree they can step up the efforts, that’s great,” he said.

“I’ll leave that to them and I’m sure they’re preparing,” he added. “We’ll see if the House proceeds. If they do, they’re going to have be able to respond and put on a defense.”

As damaging revelations pile up, more and more senators such as McSally and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who both declined to comment on impeachment-related questions Thursday, are opting to stay quiet rather than defend the president.

Tags Chris Wallace Cory Gardner Dan Sullivan Donald Trump Impeachment Joe Biden John Thune Johnny Isakson Joni Ernst Kevin Cramer Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Martha McSally Mick Mulvaney Mike Enzi Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Rob Portman Rudy Giuliani Susan Collins Thom Tillis Tim Scott
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