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Trump tests GOP loyalty with election tweet and stimulus strategy

President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE is testing the loyalty of his Republican allies on Capitol Hill at a time when his weak job approval numbers have GOP lawmakers increasingly concerned that he may lose reelection and drag down their Senate majority with him.

Senate Republicans have largely stuck by Trump during his tumultuous time in office.

While they criticize the president from time to time, they mostly avoid publicly confrontations, even though a good number of GOP lawmakers are willing to express their critical judgments privately.

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On Thursday, however, they decisively broke with Trump over postponing the Nov. 3 election, which Trump floated as a way to guard against what he says is the danger of vote-by-mail fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe bizarre back story of the filibuster The Bible's wisdom about addressing our political tribalism Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (R-Ky.) flatly dismissed the idea of delaying the general election when asked about it during an interview with Kentucky television.

“Never in the history of the Congress, through wars, depressions and the Civil War have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time and we’ll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3,” McConnell told Max Winitz, the lead evening anchor at WNKY 40.

When Winitz asked whether the Nov. 3 election date is “set in stone,” McConnell responded “that’s right.”

“We’ll cope with whatever the situation is and have the election on Nov. 3 as already scheduled,” the GOP leader said.

McConnell made his comments after Trump warned on Twitter that “with universal mail-in voting” the 2020 election “will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”

“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” the president tweeted.

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Trump has maintained strong Republican support on Capitol Hill because of his popularity with the GOP base but that loyalty is being tested as his approval numbers slide amidst a pandemic and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Vin Weber, a Republican strategist, said Trump’s tweet was an unforced error likely prompted by the president’s growing concern about his diminishing chances of winning a second term.

“I think the president is really worried about his reelection. That’s really coming through,” he said. “Whatever spin the Trump people put on poll numbers and claiming it’s fake news and all that stuff, Trump knows he’s in trouble.

“And I also think that it’s that fear that he’s falling behind and may lose that caused him to make that really stupid comment about delaying the election,” he said. “I say stupid because it absolutely does him no good.”

Trump’s approval rating slipped to 40 percent this month, according to a polling average compiled by FiveThirtyEight.com. Public approval of Trump’s response to the pandemic is in the thirties, according to some polls.

The economy, which only six months ago Republicans saw as the president’s strongest argument for reelection, has cratered since March. Gross domestic product dropped by 9.5 percent in the second quarter, making for a 32.9 percent annual rate of decline.  

Trump’s weak numbers have begun to weigh on Senate Republican incumbents.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBill to shorten early voting period, end Election Day early in Iowa heads to governor's desk We know how Republicans will vote — but what do they believe? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending MORE (R-Iowa), who abruptly stopped speaking to reporters in the hallways of Capitol Hill, was trailing her Democratic opponent Theresa Greenfield by 3 points in a Des Moines Register poll last week.

Senate Republicans felt confident in January that Ernst would cruise to reelection but now her prospects in a state where Trump’s approval rating is underwater look iffy.

With coronavirus infections across the country spiking, the national economy stalling and the polls turning against the president and members of his party, Republican senators on Thursday recoiled against Trump’s suggestion of breaking 175 years of tradition and changing the date of the election.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents John Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report MORE (R-S.C.), who golfs with Trump and is one of his closest Senate allies, even panned Trump’s suggestion to delay the election.

“I think delaying the election probably wouldn’t be a good idea,” he said.

McConnell and Graham are both up for reelection this year. While they are running for reelection in staunchly Republican states, they are both facing well-financed opponents in an unpredictable political environment.

Other Republicans across the party’s ideological spectrum weighed against Trump’s proposal.

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Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Texas attorney general hits links with Trump before CPAC appearance MORE (R-Texas), a prominent conservative, said election fraud is a “serious problem and we should fight and stop it but no we should not delay the elections.”

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: CPAC fires starting gun on 2024 Trump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Democrats scramble to rescue minimum wage hike MORE (R-Utah), a prominent moderate and outspoken Trump critic, told reporters: “the election will be held on the day set by Congress and the historic date.”

The nation has held its presidential elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November since Congress passed the Presidential Election Day Act in 1845.

Trump’s is further testing Republican loyalty by pushing for another massive coronavirus relief package, which Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE and White House Chief of Staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward MORE are negotiating with Democratic leaders.

While Trump doesn’t seem concerned by the possible impact on the deficit, opposition is steadily growing within the Senate Republican Conference to another multi-trillion-dollar package.

“It needs to be narrower and more directed, more focused,” said Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump, part II Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy MORE (R-Kan.) of the $1 trillion joint White House-Senate Republican relief proposal unveiled on Monday. “I have yet to get the justification for the long list of things included in the bill and why they’re related to COVID.”

Moran, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, said he was given little advanced notice of what spending items under his jurisdiction would be included in the relief bill until it was publicly unveiled.

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“If this is the beginning point with my concerns with where this bill is now it only gets, from my perspective, worse with more spending and spending much more broadly outside the specific needs of COVID-19 recovery,” he said.

Republican senators have become more critical of the negotiations between the White House and Democratic leaders in recent days.

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseTrump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (R-Neb.) released a statement Tuesday warning that Mnuchin and Meadows are ready to strike a deal with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 After vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-Calif.) that would add significantly to the debt.

“We have two big government Democrats — Secretary Mnuchin on behalf of the Trump administration and Speaker Pelosi on behalf of binge-spending politicians everywhere —  playing gross games with your kids’ money,” he said.

He accused the White House of “trying to solve bad polling by agreeing to indefensibly bad debt.” 

Weber, the Republican strategist, said Trump is not on the same page as many GOP lawmakers with regards to the size of the next relief package.

He said Trump “wants the biggest stimulus he can get and he doesn't care what it looks like.”