Trump's Not Moving Out Of The Spotlight
Michelle Goldberg began her NY Times column this morning by noting that "It was amazing how quickly it happened. For almost five years-- from Donald Trump’s rise in the 2016 Republican primaries to the Jan. 6 insurrection following his defeat-- the lurid spectacle of our national politics sucked up most of the country’s cultural energy. Almost every conversation I had during that time began with mutual expressions of outrage and incredulity about whatever was happening in the hourly news cycle. And then it was over. Trump’s cultural power evanesced as quickly as his political power did. Now everyone except those running in Republican primaries can ignore him." She went on to make another point but everyone ignoring him but those running in Republican primaries isn't exactly accurate.
Trump has every intention of keeping himself front and center-- and, to address Goldberg's point, not as a unifier or healer. Republican leaders may be scrambling "to smooth out divisions that they fear will be damaging in the 2022 midterm elections," even giving Trump a silly first annual champion for freedom award on the same day that he "railed against his perceived enemies in both parties and offered little, if any, reassurance that he would try to rally together a GOP riddled with internal divisions and desperate to regain governing power in Washington. The former president’s remarks served as a reminder of just how difficult it will be for Republicans to move past the controversies and infighting that have plagued them since Trump’s loss in last year’s presidential election. 'It was just Trump being Trump,' one person familiar with the former president’s remarks said. 'That’s not surprising, but I don’t see how that moves the conversation forward.' For many of the party’s top fundraisers and dignitaries, the Republican National Committee’s spring donor retreat in Palm Beach represented a chance to regroup after a series of devastating losses in recent months that cost the GOP the White House and its Senate majority. What attendees got instead was an airing of old grievances by Trump, who nearly three months after leaving Washington remains fixated on relitigating his loss in the 2020 presidential election and advancing his feuds with Republicans whom he sees as insufficiently loyal."
Trump attacked Mitch McConnell (and his wife), Georgia Governor Brian Kemp-- who is up for reelection and has been begging Trumpists to kiss and make up-- and even poor old Mike Pence. Max Greenwood wrote that "some Republicans have grown weary with the intraparty feuds and argue that Trump’s attacks too often detract from a unified conservative argument against Democratic control in Washington. One Republican who was briefed on Trump’s remarks on Saturday expressed frustration with the former president’s fixation on fellow Republicans, arguing that he should be directing '100 percent' of his energy on countering Biden and congressional Democrats.
Republicans need to gain just five seats in the House and only one in the Senate next year to recapture their majorities in Congress.
But redistricting delays due to the coronavirus pandemic have created at least some uncertainty about the House map, and Republicans are facing a more challenging Senate map than Democrats are. The GOP is defending 20 seats in the upper chamber compared to only 14 for Democrats, and several of those seats are in expensive and ultra-competitive battleground states, like North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida.
At the same time, Trump’s vow to support primary challenges to GOP incumbents who have broken with him sets the stage for a series of bitter and uncertain nominating contests that will pit the former president’s political operation against that of the Republican Party.
Last week, the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with McConnell, endorsed Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-AK) 2022 reelection bid, setting up a fight with Trump, who pledged to oust Murkowski after she voted in February to convict him in his second Senate impeachment trial.
Similarly, Trump has already endorsed a primary challenge to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), who voted to impeach the former president in January. He is also supporting Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) in his bid to oust Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who rebuffed Trump’s requests to overturn the election results in Georgia.
...Former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has spoken critically of Trump, said that Republicans should not expect Trump to drop his grievances and play a unifying role in the party anytime soon, regardless of the drama he may create for the GOP.
“Here’s a guy who’s unemployed, has nothing else to do except to cause trouble,” Boehner said in an interview on ABC’s The View on Monday. “And clearly, it’s obvious to me he’s not going to go away.”
So... absolutely, lots of trouble in 2022-- not to mention 2024-- Republican primaries. But it doesn't stop there. In his Roll Call column this morning, Stuart Rothenberg wrote that "Unlike in 2010 and 2018, when the 'out-party' successfully made the midterms 'about' the president, Republicans have acted in a way that makes 2022 about them rather than about Biden and House Democrats. Trump has signaled he will inject himself into the midterms-- both by challenging incumbent Republican officeholders who have criticized him and by reminding voters that he is the leader of the GOP. That could make 2022 'about' Trump and House Republicans like Florida’s Matt Gaetz, Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado’s Lauren Boebert and a handful of other current GOP officeholders and candidates instead of about Biden. That’s hardly an ideal situation for Republicans in next year’s election."
McConnell has the GOP marching in lockstep against every proposal Biden is making-- and with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema more sympathetic with Republican objectives than with Democratic objectives, that united GOP front can be deadly for Biden and the Democrats. But... Trump. He would rather incite loathing against McConnell than see "his own" party succeed. As Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine put it in a Politico piece last night, "the ongoing feud between the former president and the Senate minority leader has decayed to an entirely untenable place" that could splinter the GOP badly in primaries and set the tenor for a general election that defies historical predictions and goes blue.
Mike Braun (R-IN): "We’ve got issues as a party, with the demographic trends going against us, and we don’t have a lot of margin for error. When it comes to the infighting politically, I don’t know how that can help-- when you’re scrapping on the margins, when you’re trying to win states, and especially national elections.
Everett and Levine noted that Trump hasn't endorsed McConnell's chief lieutenant, John Thune (R-SD)-- where a nod from Trump will determine who goes to DC from that politically backward state in 2023-- and he "openly opposes Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-AK) reelection. Future GOP Senate primaries in states like Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Ohio offer more opportunities for intraparty conflict." Another close McConnell ally, John Cornyn (R-TX), who is not up for reelection, insists that the Republican primary victors should be he or she "who is electable in the general election." That, however isn't how Trump sees it. He insists on loyalty to him personally as the one and only factor. "Just this year, Trump asked donors to give to his own political group instead of GOP campaign committees. And McConnell takes intense interest in pivotal Senate races, maneuvering to anoint his preferred candidates and make strategic decisions about where to engage. So it’s easy to see how continued discord will hinder the GOP’s efforts to take back the Senate majority next year."
And wait 'til all the trials get started!