Trump’s grip on the GOP faces new problems

About halfway through Saturday night’s Texas rally, Donald J. Trump veered toward the telemeter and away from a series of tortuous complaints to present a closely prepared list. about President Biden’s failures and his own accomplishments.

“Let’s simply compare records,” Mr Trump said, as supporters wearing “Trump 2024” shirts cheered behind him, perfectly framed in the television footage.

Mr. Trump, who later went on to talk about “that beautiful, beautiful house that happened to be white”, made less and less people doubt about his intentions, his schemes. an influential role in the 2022 midterm elections and another potential White House run. But a new set of clashes over his endorsement, rifts with the Republican establishment on vaccines – a word Mr. Trump clearly failed to utter at Saturday’s rally – and the New polls all show his long-standing grip on the Republican Party facing growing tension.

In Texas, some fundamentalist conservatives expressed frustration with Mr. Trump’s support of Governor Greg Abbott, even booing Mr Abbott when he took to the stage. In North Carolina, Mr. Trump’s behind-the-scenes efforts to narrow the Republican field to help his favorite Senate candidate failed last week. And in Tennessee, a recent Trump endorsement set off a Unusual backlash from the publiceven among his most loyal allies, both in Congress and in the conservative media.

The Tennessee episode, in particular, showed how the Make America Great Again movement that Mr. Trump was born has matured into, to the point where it can sometimes exist apart and apart – and even contrary to that. against – with Mr. Trump himself.

Mr. Trump is still, overwhelmingly, the most powerful and popular figure in the Republican Party. He’s at the forefront of the 2024 vote, an unprecedented fundraising force and still able to fill fairgrounds with huge crowds. But after delivering about 100 votes in favor in races across the country, Mr. Trump will face a series of proxy tests of his political prowess in the coming months, as well as political visits. Public polls show that his wobble with GOP voters isn’t what it used to be.

“Things seem to be changing,” said Patrick Ruffini, a Republican pollster. survey regularly Mr. Trump was standing at the party. “It was a strong bond. It’s the one most likely to win the Republican primaries today. But is it the iron, monolithic, Soviet-era attachment we saw when Donald Trump was president? Without it it is not.”

In a recent Associated Press survey44% of Republicans say they don’t want Mr. Trump to run for president again, while a potential GOP opponent in 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has closed the gap in snaps. another too soon on a hypothetical primaries. – new signs of vulnerability for the former president.

In a reversal from Mr. Trump’s White House days, a NBC News poll at the end of January showed that 56% of Republicans now identify themselves as Republicans, compared with 36% who said they were Trump supporters first.

The Trump-first camp made up 54 percent of the Republican electorate in October 2020. The erosion since then spans every demographic: men and women, moderates and conservatives, everyone. all ages.

Among the biggest changes has been in a group many consider to be Mr. Trump’s most loyal constituency: white Republicans without college degrees, who went from 62% identifying first agreement with Mr. Trump down to 36%.

Frank Luntz, a prominent GOP pollster, says Republican support for the former president is evolving in complex ways – both strengthening and easing.

“The Trump team today is smaller than it was five years ago, but even more intense, more passionate, and more intolerant of his critics,” Mr. Luntz said. “As the people drifted away – who they were – the people who were still with him supported them even stronger.”

Mr. Trump faces further complications over the return, including a Investigation is ongoing in Georgia about his attempt to pressure state officials to overturn the election and an investigation in New York into his business practices.

Betting against Mr. Trump’s hold on the GOP has been a failed proposition, for both pundits and Republican opponents, for a decade, and he retains widespread support within the party apparatus itself. When the Republican National Committee holds its winter meeting in the coming days in Salt Lake City, the party’s executive committee is expected to discuss whether to continue with the payments. some of the former president’s personal legal bills.

Even some Trump-sceptic Republican strategists note that any support comes after a year in which Mr. Trump has not sought to capture the public’s attention as thoroughly as possible. .

He was back in the spotlight at Saturday’s Texas rally, an event with the feel of a music festival, with anti-Biden chants “Let’s go Brandon!” spontaneously erupted. Amidst the “Trump Won” flags, however, some conservative activists grumbled about Mr Abbott’s endorsement, criticizing the governor’s initiation of the Covid-19 lockdown and border management..

On stage, Mr. Abbott himself faced shouts of “RINO” – for “Republican in name only” – and some boos, which he overpowered as he led the crowd in a chant “Let’s go Trump!”

In his remarks, Mr Trump appeared to be defending his right wing, declaring that, “if I run for office and I win”, he will consider pardoning those who took part in the attack. January 6 into the Capitol last year.

A key split that has emerged between Mr Trump and his establishment is on the vaccine issue. He’s been mocked in previous appearances – even urging his supporters get vaccinated and after he said he booster shot yourself — and now he’s focused on fighting federal mandates, while trying to credit the speed with which a vaccine arrives.

Mr. Trump specifically avoided the word “vaccine” on Saturday, referring only to “Campaign Speed” – his administration’s effort to produce a vaccine.

Jennifer Winterbauer, who has a “We the People” tattoo on her forearm, arrived at the Trump rally – her Friday before the day, sleeping in her truck to be among the first in line . She said she believes Mr Trump was “sent by God to save this country.” However, she disagrees with him about the vaccine.

“I don’t think he should promote it at all,” she said. “I had Covid and I had the flu, and the flu was much worse.”

Vaccine and Covid policies are also the subject of simmering tensions with Mr. DeSantis, who declined to say whether he received the booster vaccine. Mr. Trump said politicians were “brave” to avoid such questions.

Mr. Ruffini polled Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis last October and again this month. Then Mr. Trump leads with 40 percentage points; The current, profit is 25. But among Republicans familiar with both men, the gap was just 16 points, and still narrower, just nine points, among those who liked both.

“His voters are looking at alternatives,” Ruffini said of Trump. While there is little evidence of any desire for an anti-Trump Republican, Ruffini said, there is openness to what he calls the “next-generation Trump candidate.”

At the Texas rally, David Merritt, a 56-year-old private contractor in a cowboy hat, described himself as “a Trump man” rather than a Republican. But what if he doesn’t run in 2024?

“Perhaps Ron DeSantis will be my next choice,” Mr. Merritt said. Because he is the most similar to Mr. Trump among the Republican candidates.

In Washington, Republican congressional leaders have made a clear distinction in their approach to Mr.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader in the House, invited Trump for about an hour last Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago to talk about the House races and the political landscape. , according to people familiar with the meeting. Mr. McCarthy is seen as a man who holds Mr. Trump firmly as he seeks to win a majority for his party this fall and the right to speak for himself.

In the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, did not speak to Mr. Trump, and his allies continued to sue Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, an outspoken anti-Trump, to run for the Senate. .

Outside of polls, Mr. Trump has repeatedly held a “virtually untraceable record” of his key assertions as a barometer of his power. When Lou Dobbs, a pro-Trump media personality, asked Mr. Trump last week if the GOP remains united behind his back, he replies, “Well, I think so. Everyone I agree with wins. ”

In North Carolina, Mr. Trump promoted the Senate candidate he endorsed, Representative Ted Budd, by trying to persuade Representative Mark Walker to drop the primaries and run for re-election to the House. Mr. Walker threatened to split the vote in favor of Trump and help a third candidate, former Governor Pat McCrory, a more traditional Republican.

On Thursday, Mr. Walker announced he was still in the Senate race anyway.

While Mr. Trump’s endorsement has been a bit messy at times, despite ongoing efforts to formalize the process, few have drawn outcry more quickly than his support for Morgan. Ortagus, who was an assistant to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and was used to float as White House press secretary.

Ortagus, accompanied by her family, met Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago last Monday and discussed a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives for which she is not even an official candidate, according to three people. familiar with the meeting; the following evening, Mr. Trump endorsed her unannounced run.

“Trump got this completely wrong,” said Candace Owens, a well-known figure in the pro-Trump media, wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Owens supports Robby Starbuck, a rival candidate with ties to Trump’s activist movement. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was also quick to endorse Mr. Starbuck, and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, typically a staunch Trump ally, promoted one of Mr. Starbuck’s videos.

Gavin Wax, an outspoken pro-Trump activist and president of the Young Republican Club in New York who has criticized the endorsement of Ortagus and Abbott, said the current political climate could make it difficult such grievances take place. Mr. Wax said of Mr. Trump: “It would be a lot easier if these parts started to take shape when he leaves office.

“He’s still top dog by a long shot, but who knows,” Mr. Wax said. “It’s one of those things that, a million cuts – it’s going to start to do damage eventually.”

J. David Goodman Contribution report from Conroe, Texas. Trump’s grip on the GOP faces new problems

Fry Electronics Team

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