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Trump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars

Trump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars
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As the Conservative Political Action Conference meets in Florida this weekend, there is great joy among supporters of former President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to move ahead with billion UAE weapons sale approved by Trump Fox News hires high-profile defense team in Dominion defamation lawsuit Associate indicted in Gaetz scandal cooperating with DOJ: report MORE, who believe with reason that he controls the Republican Party, and equal joy among liberal Democrats and Democratic leaders, who believe with reason that Trump’s divisiveness and control of Republicans is a great gift to Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.

Since Election Day 2020, Trump has been a combination of public relations disaster alienating the national electorate and highly effective political maneuvering intensifying his support from his large base — and thoroughly intimidating the Republican leaders in the House and Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell seeks to end feud with Trump Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Colin Powell on Afghanistan: 'We've done all we can do' MORE (R-Ky.) went from giving Trump much blame for the sickening attack against the Capitol on Jan. 6, implying he might be subject to criminal prosecution, to announcing that he would “absolutely” support Trump if Republicans nominate him for president in 2024.

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRepublicans need to stop Joe Biden's progressive assault on America Top academics slam Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act Boehner: 'There's a lot of leaders in the Republican Party' MORE (R-Calif.) has similarly shifted from criticism of Trump for his actions on Jan. 6 to then visiting Trump to court his support for the 2022 midterms. 

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyFamily policy that could appeal to the right and the left Press: Corporate America defies the GOP Romney on NRSC awarding Trump: Not 'my preference' MORE (R-Utah) went from voting to impeach Trump to predicting Trump will be nominated if he seeks the presidency in 2024.

Meanwhile other Republicans, such as Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseBipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks To encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision Maine GOP rejects motion to censure Collins MORE (Neb.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Congress returns; infrastructure takes center stage Sunday shows - Infrastructure dominates Liz Cheney says allegations against Gaetz are 'sickening,' refuses to say if he should resign MORE (Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, have been principled in their warnings about Trump being unable to generate significant grassroots GOP or conservative support.

This year’s CPAC is shaping up to be a massive Trump rally, where I expect to hear expressions of Trump grievances and attacks against those Trump treats as political enemies, including, most likely, some prominent Republicans.

One result of the CPAC meetings could be to generate a surge of Republican primaries in the 2022 midterms against members of the House and Senate who do not parrot the Trump line, though there are also likely to be many primary attacks against GOP members who march in lockstep behind Trump.

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While the proceedings of the CPAC meetings may be an echo chamber of conservative support for Trump and attacks against Trump opponents, the message sent to the outside world will be at odds with significant public opinion majorities. This is why liberals and Democrats are just as excited by the CPAC meetings as Trump and his conservative supporters are — and why GOP leaders may be privately worried about the impact on the 2022 midterms.

Consider the following matters.

President Joe BidenJoe BidenIRS to roll out payments for ,000 child tax credit in July Capitol Police told not to use most aggressive tactics in riot response, report finds Biden to accompany first lady to appointment for 'common medical procedure' MORE is enjoying favorable ratings with American voters, while Republican leaders like McConnell have very low ratings.

While a majority of Americans want Democrats and Republicans to work together, and Biden is making some effort to achieve this, the CPAC meetings instead could cause a return to the divisive politics of the Trump years that voters just ended.

In addition, a majority of voters believe the 2020 presidential election was honest and legitimate. Trump and his supporters, on the other hand, believe the election was stolen from him. 

And while Biden and Democrats favor a large COVID-19 relief bill that is supported by a large majority of the public, Trump and most Republicans oppose it.

The CPAC meetings stand to help Trump in Republican nomination politics, but dangerously hurt the GOP in general election politics in the 2022 midterms.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.