WASHINGTON – For nearly four years, Republicans in Congress have escaped and escaped the endless cascade of insulting statements and shocking behavior of President Trump, ignoring his large and scattered Twitter channel and propensity for fiery party orthodoxy and stagnation. allies, attacked American institutions and incited racist and nativist fears.
But now, faced with grim electoral figures and a flood of democratic money and enthusiasm that threatened their Senate majority, Republicans on Capitol Hill are beginning to publicly distance themselves from the president. The change, less than three weeks before the election, shows that many Republicans have come to the conclusion that Mr Trump is heading for a loss in November. And they set out to save themselves and rush to restore their reputation for the upcoming struggle for their party̵
On Wednesday, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska released Mr. Trump during a telephony event at the town hall, erasing the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and accusing him of “flirting” with dictators and white superiors and alienating voters so widely that could provoke a “Republican bloodbath” in the Senate. He was repeating a phrase from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who warned of a “Republican blood bath with Watergate proportions.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the president’s most vocal allies, predicts the president could lose the White House.
Even the normally silent Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and majority leader, has been more outspoken in recent days about his differences with the president, rejecting calls for him to be “big” on a stimulus bill. This was a reflection of the fact that Republicans in the Senate – who have rarely broken with the president on any major four-year legislative initiative – are reluctant to vote on the kind of multimillion-dollar federal aid plan Mr Trump has suddenly decided. that it would be in his best interest to embrace him.
“Voters are ready to drive the final wedge between Republicans in the Senate and Trump,” said Alex Conant, a former aide to Senator Marco Rubio and a former White House spokesman. “It is much easier to understand each other when you win elections and gain power. But when you’re on the brink of what could be a historical loss, there’s less desire to just find out. “
Republicans could stick to both the White House and the Senate, and Mr. Trump still holds the party base firm, which is perhaps the reason even some of those known to be most critical of him, such as Mr. Sasse and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney declined to be interviewed about their concerns.
But their recent behavior has answered the long-held question of whether there will ever be a time for Republicans to reject a president who so often says and does things that undermine their principles and messages. The answer seems to be when they fear it will threaten their political survival.
In line with the 2020 Elections
If some Senate Republicans have written off Mr. Trump’s chances of winning, the feeling may be mutual. On Friday, the president posted his latest Twitter attack on Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the most threatened Republican parties, apparently worried that he could further jeopardize her chances, along with the party’s hopes of retaining the Senate.
In a statement Friday, Mr Romney attacked the president for not wanting to condemn QAnon, the viral conspiracy movement for Trump, which the FBI has identified as a threat to domestic terrorism, saying the president was “eager to trade” principles “in hopes of electoral wins. “This was his second scathing statement this week, criticizing Mr Trump, although Mr Romney linked both screeds to criticism from Democrats, saying the two parties shared their guilt.
Yet Mr Romney and other Republicans who have spoken out to make terrible predictions or express concerns about Mr Trump are sticking with the president on what is likely to be his last major act before the election: Judge Amy’s confirmation Connie Barrett, a favorite of the Conservatives, to the Supreme Court.
The dichotomy reflects the tacit deal adopted by Republicans in Congress during Mr. Trump’s presidency, in which he tolerated his inflammatory behavior and statements, knowing that he would contribute to many of their priorities, including installing a conservative majority at the highest level. court of the country.
Still, the grim political environment has sparked controversy, especially among Republicans with political aspirations extending beyond Mr. Trump’s presidency to be at the forefront of any party rebuild.
“As it becomes clear that he is just as politically mortal as everyone else, you are really beginning to see how the future of the Republican Party is being played,” said Carlos Karbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida who did not support Mr. Trump in 2016. “What we heard yesterday from Senator Sasse was the beginning of this process.”
In an interview, Mr Karbelo said his former colleagues had known for months that Mr Trump would one day become “subject to the laws of political gravity” – and that the party would face the consequences.
“Most Republicans in Congress knew it was unsustainable in the long run, and they just were – some people might call it pragmatic, others might call it opportunistic – by keeping their heads down and doing what they have to do. while they wait for that time to come, “he said.
It is unclear whether Republicans will seek to redefine their party if the president loses, given that Trump’s term has shown the appeal of his inflammatory brand to a crucial conservative base.
“He still has a huge, huge impact – and for a very long time – on primary voters, and that’s what members are interested in,” said Brendan Buck, a former adviser to the last two Republican House speakers.
What Mr. Sasse and Mr. Cruz can seek, he added, is the latest candidacy to retain Republican control of the Senate.
“If you can say it out loud, there’s an effective message that the Republican Senate could be a check on Democratic-led Washington,” Mr Buck said. “It’s hard to say that out loud because you have to admit that the president is done.”
During the election campaign, Republicans were planted by the president to withdraw their candidates to the Senate, sending his struggles to countries that are traditional Republican strongholds.
“His weakness in dealing with the coronavirus has put a lot more room than we could have ever imagined a year ago,” said Whit Ayers, a Republican sociologist and consultant. “We always knew there would be a number of close races in the Senate, and we probably swam against the tide in places like Arizona, Colorado and Maine. But when you see countries that are effectively connected, like Georgia and North Carolina and South Carolina, it tells you that something has happened in the wider environment. “
In 2016, when Mr Trump, then a candidate, seemed increasingly likely to win the party’s nomination, Mr McConnell assured his members that if he threatened to harm them in the general election, they would “take him down as hot rock ”.
That didn’t happen then, and it’s unlikely now that Republicans are ready for re-election, knowing that Democratic voters are unlikely to reward such a rebuke, especially so close to election day. But there were other, finer moves.
Despite repeated public requests from Mr Trump for Republicans to accept a larger package of pandemic incentives, Mr McConnell almost refused, saying his party’s senators would never support a package of this magnitude. Republicans in the Senate revolted last weekend in a conference call with Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, warning that the high-cost deal would be a “betrayal” of the party and tarnish their powers like fiscal hawks.
A more personal rebuke came from Mr McConnell last week when Kentucky, who is scheduled to be re-elected, told reporters that he had avoided visiting the White House since late summer for dealing with the coronavirus.
“My impression was that their approach to how to deal with this was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate,” Mr McConnell said.