Texas Sen. John Cornin is among a growing number of Republicans in the Senate who have begun to emphasize their disagreements with President Donald Trump amid surprisingly competitive re-election races.
“When I have differences of opinion, I have [I] do it privately, “Cornin said in an interview with Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Sunday, claiming that he had previously clashed with Trump over border security and the budget deficit. Cornin’s interview comes shortly after an audio leak captured by Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), who criticized Trump in a conversation with voters this week.
Both follow comments from Senator Martha Maxali (R-AZ) – who avoided saying she was “proud” of her support for Trump during a debate in October, as well as long-standing statements by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) – who has consistently refused to say who he voted for in November.
Overall, these remarks speak to a broader tendency for Republicans to do what many Republican lawmakers have long been reluctant to do: signal a break with Trump.
These efforts to bridge the gap between them and the president come as voters’ aversion to Trump appears to threaten key Senate seats held by Republicans. Cornin, Sasse, Maxali and Collins are running for re-election. Of the four, only Sasse’s seat is considered safe, in part because Trump has pushed more moderate Republicans out of the party in several states on the battlefield.
Even countries like Cornyn, which are seen as Republican strongholds, provide opportunities for Democrats: Cornyn, for example, faces a competitive race against Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, whom Cook Policy Report described as a “Lean Republican.” This has left some Republican members apparently more inclined to speak out against some of the president’s political positions as they fight for their own re-election.
As expectations of Trump’s re-election begin to waver, more Republicans appear to be planning what comes next.
“You all have a good chance of winning the White House,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close ally of Trump, told Democratic colleagues during a confirmation hearing last week for Supreme Court nominee Amy Connie Barrett.
Republicans who are now speaking out against Trump – as well as those like Sense Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who are leaning on their fiscal conservative goodwill and backing Trump’s calls for a more expansive stimulus bill – can prepare for a party after Trump.
Republicans in the swing state could be hurt by their ties to Trump
Many local Swing Republicans, including Arizona, Iowa and Colorado, face a complex balancing act: They had to reconcile closely with Trump to gain support on their conservative base, but it is these ties that hurt them in the general election. independents – and even some moderate Republicans – are moving away from the president.
In Arizona, for example, Trump’s approval ratings have plummeted and his disapproval has dropped from 35 percent to 48 percent since January 2017, according to the Morning Consult tracker. Over the same period, Trump’s disapproval rating in Iowa rose from 40 percent to 51 percent, and in Colorado it rose from 44 percent to 55 percent.
As a result, some Republicans may find it useful for their campaigns if they demonstrate some separation from Trump, especially as public health and the economic consequences of the pandemic continue.
Whether that will be enough remains to be seen. While Cornyn is currently ahead of Hegar on average, other Republican senators are doing poorly – according to RealClearPolitics averages, Collins, for example, is 4.2 percentage points behind his rival and McSally is 8.3 percentage points behind his Democratic opponent.
In his remarks, Sasse did not seem optimistic about the CSO’s chances and argued that a negative attitude toward Trump could lead to a “Republican bloodbath” this fall.
Some Republicans may also offer a look at the messages they would use after Trump
Trump is also not doing well in the polls – Democrat nominee Joe Biden leads him in double digits in some recent polls. These figures made the president start thinking publicly about losing the election.
As Stephen Dennis of Bloomberg writes, Republicans, including Sasse and Cruz, appear to be among those preparing for a potential Biden presidency in which they will be voice fiscal hawks.
One way they, like other Senate Republicans, have done so in recent months is to become more outspoken in their opposition to the additional costs of boosting the pandemic by closing Trump’s recent demands to “get big” and drafting its a narrow bill to vote this week. The Republican movement in this direction hints at the possibility that they may be more receptive to fiscal conservatism if Biden becomes president.
As Republican Sen. Tom Tillis recently told Politico, “Biden’s presidency’s best test is for Republicans to have a majority in the Senate.” But attempts to distance themselves from Trump or not appear to be in serious jeopardy.
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