After Capitol rioting and Georgia Senate defeats, Trump’s clout with some Republicans takes hit
Can the Republican Party rise above being the party of Trump?
Judith Miller, Brad Blakeman and Steve Hayes react after pro-Trump protesters storm Capitol Hill.
President Trump’s expected speech to the Republican National Committee’s annual winter meeting, which is being held this year in Florida, appears to have been scrubbed at the last minute.
The president’s planned recorded address to the national Republican Party’s committee members, top officials, and leading activists, which was scheduled for Thursday, will not take place, Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts reported.
The news comes as the president is reeling following the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday by Trump supporters who were encouraged by the president at a rally near the White House just hours earlier to march to the Capitol to protest as Congress was officially certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over the president.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A handful of senior-level White House staff resigned in protest, and some top Trump supporters in Congress abandoned the president and his efforts to reverse his November election loss Biden.
The unprecedented attack on the Capitol, which was seemingly encouraged by Trump, comes as the soon-to-be former president has vowed to remain influential in GOP party politics after he leaves the White House and as he’s pledged to support primary challenges in the 2022 midterm elections to Republican governors and senators who refused to aid his efforts to stay in power.
But his formidable clout in a party he reshaped and owned the past four years appears to have taken a hit.
"Yesterday was a horrific disaster for him," GOP consultant David Carney, a veteran of numerous Republican presidential campaigns over the past three decades, told Fox News.
Longtime Republican fundraiser and lobbyist David Tamasi highlighted that for Trump, "the line was crossed yesterday forever."
Tamasi, who raised money for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said that "politically there might be a path forward for him to try and rally certain primary challenges in certain red states, either in the House or the Senate. That’s his business."
But he emphasized, "you’re not going to see any financial support from Washington or from the business community or any Republican who is not associated with the fridge, that is going to be supportive of those things."
Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
After Trump supporters breached the Capitol, forcing the building into lockdown and suspending for six hours the House and Senate election certification sessions, the president did urge them to leave in a peaceful manner, but he never condemned their actions and repeated his unfounded claims that he won the election in a "landslide."
"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long," Trump wrote in a message that was later deleted by Twitter. He added, "Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"
TRUMP DELETES TWEETS THAT SENT HIS TWITTER ACCOUNT INTO LOCKDOWN
Trump, who’s spent the past two months claiming the presidential election was "rigged" and rampant with "massive fraud" and who’s refused to concede to Biden, on Wednesday night finally acknowledged he would be departing the White House later this month.
"Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th," the president said in a statement posted to Twitter by his social media director. Trump’s own account was locked by Twitter for posting tweets earlier in the day that the company claimed appeared to justify the assault on the Capitol.
It came just hours after the Democrats narrowly won both Senate runoff elections in Georgia, which gives them a razor-thin majority in the chamber to go along with their slight majority in the House of Representatives. And with Biden just two weeks away from being inaugurated as president, the Democrats will control both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.
Trump is facing blame by some in the party for the GOP losses in Georgia, due to his repeated claims that his narrow defeat in the state to Biden was due to fraud, and for his numerous vocal attacks on Georgia’s Republican governor and secretary of state for refusing to aid his attempts to upend the state’s election results.
The president, at Wednesday’s rally, called such GOP officials "weak Republicans" and he told his supporters that "we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don't fight. You primary them. We're going to let you know who they are. I can already tell you, frankly."
The comments by Trump – who’s already said he’ll target a handful of Republicans when they’re up for re-election in 2022 – was his most explosive language to date – and it appears be sparking a serious divide in the GOP, which could have major implications in the next midterm elections, when the Republicans will try to recapture both houses of Congress and expand their control of the governorships.
Top Trump political adviser Corey Lewandowski told Fox News that "the president has raised northwards of a quarter of a billion dollars since Election Day for his campaign and that will give him the opportunity to target individuals who don’t support the Make America Great Again agenda in 2022, and that includes Republicans."
"You’ve got someone who is unbelievably popular, who has enormous amounts of cash on hand, and has the opportunity and desire to weigh in and hold people accountable for both their statements and their records," he added.
Trump's hopes to play a kingmaker role in 2022 comes as he's also flirting with a 2024 presidential bid to try and reclaim the White House.
While the president’s approval rating among Republicans has stayed in the stratosphere — it stood at 86% in a Fox News national poll and at 90% in an NPR/PBS/Marist survey, which were both conducted in early December, and nine out of 10 Republicans gave him a thumbs up in a USA Today/Suffolk University national poll conducted two weeks ago – this week's events appear to be taking a toll.
Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a strong Trump supporter who crisscrossed the 2020 campaign trail on behalf of the president – and who may have national ambitions of his own in 2024– said late Wednesday in a statement that "it’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence."
Dan Eberhart, a major GOP donor and bundler who helped raise money for the president, told Fox News that "this is a failure of leadership. If President Trump wants to have any kind of political future within the Republican Party, he needs to condemn the violence at the Capitol and stop claiming the election was stolen."
"The desecration of the Capitol is not going to be forgotten," Eberhart emphasized. "He cost Senate Majority Leader (Mitch) McConnell his leadership position and now he’s shitting all over the Capitol – I think that’s a pretty strong statement about how President Trump feels about the Republican Party."
Tamasi also spotlighted the erosion of Trump's support within the party.
"As it relates to Washington establishment, which was not entirely supportive, that’s gone. As well as the business community, as well as a lot of Republicans who supported the president because he was the head of the party and he was advancing policy priorities that were aligned with the party," he said.
And pointing to Trump, as well as possible 2024 GOP presidential contenders Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, who were the Senate Republicans leaders in aiding the president’s objections to the Electoral College vote, Tamasi predicted that "they are rapidly sinking ships in the Republican Party as we look at 2024."
While Trump’s ban on Twitter was temporary, Facebook on Thursday announced it will block the president on its platforms, which includes Instagram, at least until the end of his term on Jan. 20.
Carney, a top political adviser to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, said the potential long-term lockout from his social media platforms would "be a huge crushing blow to his prospects to being a kingmaker in the future because those are his go-to platforms…It will be difficult to be much of an influencer without those platforms."
But Carney, pointing to other one-term presidents such as Jimmy Carter and the late George H.W. Bush, acknowledged that Trump will "absolutely still have some clout."
New Hampshire state Rep. Fred Doucette, who served as 2016 and 2020 Trump campaign co-chair in the Granite State, pointed out that "close to 75 million people voted for the man. Is there going to be an effect? Yes. Is he still going to wield some influence? Absolutely."
Doucette noted that "the core Trump supporters are Republicans but some of the president’s ardent backers are more supporters of the president than necessarily the Republican Party."
And he told Fox News that he’s "already hearing some buzzing of third party talk."
Doucette acknowledged that "anybody would be foolish to say" that this week's events weren’t "going to have an effect. It will definitely have an effect."
But pointing to the president’s robust war chest – Trump’s raised roughly $250 million from supporters since the November election – Doucette said he’ll "absolutely" have influence going forward. "I think he’s going to remain a force."
But how much of a force is the big question.
Carney cautioned that "it’s just way too early to know what happens."
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