There were fewer Republican supporters at Trump’s second impeachment trial and the trial during the Jan. 6 riots than at the first impeachment trial a year earlier. But the party missed an opportunity to break with the former president: only seven GOP senators voted Saturday to condemn Trump – all but 67 could make him unelectable for another election.
Although they voted to acquit Trump, some Republicans, including McConnell, condemned his actions after the trial. Mr McConnell said Mr Trump was practically and morally responsible for causing the events of that day.
In an interview with Politico on Saturday night, McConnell pointed to a more muscular approach for the future. He said he planned to intervene in the 2022 primaries to ensure that the government of the British people would not nominate candidates whose loyalty to Trump appealed to the Republican base, but whose views would alienate the entire electorate.
I don’t predict the president will support people who can’t win. But I think choice, not who supports who, is the key issue, McConnell said.
His resolve may be put to the test in crucial races in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other states that could determine which party controls an equally divided Senate. Republican voters’ views of Trump and their interest in punishing those who have broken with him could also affect key gubernatorial elections and seats in the House of Representatives next year.
Trump has already been indicted in the 2022 primary. Almost all of the 10 delegates who voted to oust the former president now face at least one – and in some cases another – challenger for their seats in the middle of next year.
Republican parties in the county and in the Republican state are officially rebuking some GOP senators who voted to condemn Trump on Saturday. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana was convicted by his party within hours of the vote. Ben Sasse of Nebraska will be on the ballot in the coming weeks.
And the North Carolina Republican Party voted a vote of no confidence in Senator Richard Burr, who retires Monday night.
Burr’s vote could also determine the race for his successor next year. Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, is said to be among the Republicans who think the Senate is running wild.
The biggest winner in the impeachment process is Lara Trump, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News on Sunday. My good friend Richard Barr, whom I like and have been friends with for a long time, has just made Lara Trump an almost certain candidate for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs.
Even the McConnell conference doesn’t want a break with Trump.
Senator from Wisconsin. Ron Johnson, a Republican who could face one of the most difficult party re-election contests in his state in 2022, told radio host Jay Weber on Monday that he did not particularly like McConnell’s speech criticizing the former president.
He acknowledged that the way Trump does politics is bad for some people in the Republican Party, but said those people are a small minority of the party’s electorate.
I think they think this is a chance to purge our movement of any semblance of connection to Trump again. They’re just wrong, Johnson said.
In key states, Republicans have argued that an outright rejection of Trump and everything he stood for would alienate the party’s base – and that a version of his message could succeed in the 2022 midterm elections.
Jason Shepard, chairman of the Cobb County GOP and presidential candidate for the Republican Party in Georgia, said Trump will define the party for a generation, just as Ronald Reagan did before him, and that the party’s path to power includes a softer, gentler version of Trump’s approach.
I think a lot of Republicans are saying going forward, more about Donald Trump’s personality than his politics. I think there are a lot of Republicans – and frankly a lot of Democrats – who can’t separate politics from personality, he said. Donald Trump probably has one of the best messages of conservatism we’ve seen as a party in many generations, but he may not have been the best messenger for that.
In Georgia, however, Trump could play a prominent role in 2022 – with the post of governor, a Senate seat, and other key election contests. Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to exact revenge on Gov. Brian Kemp and other GOP officials who refused to back up his false allegations of voter fraud.
Shepard said there is a real danger that Republicans will look backward rather than focus on historically favorable midterm elections, in which the party not in power usually wins seats.
If the Republicans grapple with each other and try to postpone the 2020 election, we will miss the focus that should have defined what happened during the two years of Democratic rule in Washington, he said.
Others have said the GOP is prepared to lose national and state races if it remains tied to an unpopular former president.
Deception is not a winner across the country. When they reach the national level, they will get a reality check and realize they are not winning, said Olivia Troyer, a former anti-Trump National Security Advisor under former Vice President Mike Pence and now director of the Republican Accountability Project.
She argued that the GOP should disassociate itself from Trump entirely, rather than trying to moderate his excesses without taking action – as the Senate could have done – to remove him from office.
What you are basically doing is marginalizing a large portion of this population, which is made up of more moderate Republicans who don’t want to align themselves with Trumpism. So until you solve this problem, you can’t pretend to be on the side of, say, trade and small governments.
However, in the current political climate, such a break seems largely impossible: Conservative media organizations have largely rewarded those who have defended Trump with airtime, and personalities who have supported Trump’s false campaign statements, including Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, have seen more money come in during the election.
The path of least resistance for the Republicans is to unite while the loyal opposition focuses on the natural political gravity of the mid-term cycle. But the problem of the right-wing question complicates this tension – there is a vote market to protect Trump, and it will somehow be used to turn primaries into de facto referendums and put those deemed not loyal enough in an awkward position, said Republican strategist Liam Donovan.
It’s too early to tell whether voters will reward or punish the few GOP figures who have had the misfortune to criticize Trump, including Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third Republican in the House of Representatives, who voted for impeachment proceedings against Trump, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted a no-confidence vote against Trump and is running for re-election next year.
It is not yet clear the extent to which Trump himself and his family members plan to personally campaign, advertise and raise funds for the 2022 candidates. And also the course of the coronavirus pandemic – including the distribution of vaccines, the re-opening of schools, etc. – may be a much more important factor.
Primaries may yield candidates or divisions that squander otherwise winnable contests, but much of 2022 will depend on the macro issue of whether voters feel life has returned to normal, Donovan said. Either way, in about a year we’ll have a good idea if the GOP is ready or even willing to move on.