Republicans on Capitol Hill, sensing a blowout loss in November with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE at the top of the GOP ticket, have started calling in emergency reinforcements.
The first call went to the leader emeritus of the establishment wing of the party — former President George W. Bush. He agreed to come out of political retirement to help raise money for embattled Republican incumbent senators such as New Hampshire’s Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Biden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Poll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat MORE, Ohio’s Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Top GOP senators want joint review of Afghan visa process Timken rolls out six-figure ad campaign, hits Fauci MORE and Arizona’s John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' Grant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Will Trump choose megalomania over country? MORE.
The second S.O.S. signal went out to the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David. The Koch network is on track to spend $750 million this election cycle, roughly a third of which is expected to be used on political and policy spending. The vast majority of that money is going to support Republican Senate candidates.
Then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (Ky.) and Senate GOP Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynBipartisan lawmakers target judges' stock trading with new bill Cornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? MORE (Texas) finally got retiring Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE to do his part for this GOP salvage operation and get back into the race for the Senate seat he had said he would vacate.
Here’s Rubio on Twitter in May: “I have only said like 10,000 times I will be a private citizen in January.”
Here’s Rubio on Twitter last week: “I am running for reelection because control of the Senate may very well come down to the race in Florida.”
The same day, Rubio told reporters he changed his mind out of concern that some of Trump’s statements about women and minorities are “unacceptable.” He said that if Trump wins the White House “we will need senators willing to encourage him in the right direction, and if necessary, stand up to him.”
And it is not just Florida where the smoke is rising from the GOP after Trump set fire to some pillars of the party’s traditional policy on his way to claiming the nomination. Witness, for example, his deep skepticism about free trade agreements and his opposition to cutting entitlement benefits to lower the national debt.
Already, polls show Republican incumbent senators in Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Hampshire are likely to lose their reelection bids to Democrats.
If five of those seats (or just four, if Democrats retain the White House) flip, New York Democratic Sen. Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerSenators weigh future of methane fee in spending bill Biden hopes for deal on economic agenda before Europe trip The Senate is setting a dangerous precedent with Iron Dome funding MORE will become the new Senate Majority Leader.
Trump’s reluctance — some say refusal — to raise money for other Republicans is at the heart of the party’s problem. As The Wall Street Journal reported last week, the Trump campaign has been slow to get involved with the Republican National Committee’s fundraising efforts and “another drag on the operation is the businessman’s own hesitation to pick up the phone and call donors.”
And then there is the donors’ reaction to Trump. Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE’s campaign announced last week that 50 top business leaders, some of them longtime Republicans, are backing her and sending money her way. In figures released last week, Clinton had $42 million in the bank compared to $1.3 for Trump’s campaign.
In addition, major companies such as Apple, JPMorgan and Ford are declining to help sponsor the Republican convention, in order to put distance between themselves and Trump. And there is also the prospect of a rebellion of GOP convention delegates to prevent Trump from officially becoming the party’s presidential nominee.
This divide between the GOP nominee, the donors and the party’s congressional delegation comes with just over four months to go before Election Day.
Trump, meanwhile, remains critical of top Republicans in Congress for not standing behind him as he criticized an American judge for having Mexican heritage and proposed a ban on Muslim immigration. “Our leaders have to get a lot tougher and be quiet…Republicans, either stick together or let me just do it by myself,” Trump said at a recent rally.
GOP congressional leaders see no option but to distance themselves from Trump in their effort to save endangered senators
That job gets tougher every day as Trump slides in the polls, dragging down-ticket Republicans with him.
For instance, the Real Clear Politics average now shows GOP Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonA pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Sen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' MORE of Wisconsin losing by 7 points to liberal Democrat Russ Feingold, himself a former senator.
Even if Trump disappeared, however, there are still deep divisions within the party.
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman suggested in a recent column that the party’s problems were so intractable that it might as well disband and reconstitute itself as a “New Republican Party.”
“If a party could declare moral bankruptcy, today’s Republican Party would be in Chapter 11,” Tom Friedman wrote. “I know so many thoughtful conservatives who know it matters. One of them has got to start… a center-right party liberated from all the Trump birthers, the Sarah Palins, the Grover Norquists, the Sean Hannitys, the Rush Limbaughs, the gun lobby, the oil lobby and every other narrow-interest group, a party that redefines a principled conservatism.”
As Friedman suggests, the real problem here is that the GOP has sold off so many pieces of itself to niche constituencies, it is no longer a coherent party.
Last week’s failure by Senate Republicans to pass any limits on gun sales in the aftermath of the massacre in Orlando is a prime example.
According to a CNN/ORC poll last week, 90% of self-described Republicans favor preventing people on the terror “no fly” list from buying a gun. Yet the measure failed because of lack of support from GOP Senators.
Historians may soon write that Trump was less the cause of the GOP’s dysfunction than the man who finally pointed it out.
Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of America," published by Crown, is out now.