On the Trail: As Trump reels, his hold on Republican Party frays

  • In this Nov. 7, file photo, President Donald Trump's campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski, listens to a speaker during a news conference on legal challenges to vote counting in Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 1/8/2021 4:25:14 PM

President Donald Trump took over and reshaped the Republican Party during the 2016 election and his four years in the White House, exerting maximum control over the GOP.

But following the worst week of his presidency, Trump’s clout over fellow Republicans has taken a major hit.

The president is reeling following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday by Trump supporters who were encouraged by the president – at a rally he headlined near the White House just hours earlier – to march to the Capitol to protest as Congress was officially certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College victory over Trump.

Two Trump cabinet officials have resigned in protest this week, as well as a bunch of senior administration staff. A growing number of high ranking GOP lawmakers and other elected officials have blasted the president for seemingly encouraging the attack on the Capitol, and a handful are joining congressional Democrats in urging that Trump be removed from office immediately either through impeachment or by Vice President Mike Pence and cabinet officials through the use of the 25th Amendment.

The unprecedented attack on the Capitol and the fallout for Trump comes as the soon-to-be former president has vowed to remain influential in GOP party politics after he leaves the White House on Jan. 20, 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 reverse his presidential election defeat by Biden.

Trump’s also being blamed by fellow Republicans for contributing to the Democrats’ sweep on Tuesday in the twin U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia. The defeat of the two GOP incumbents means the Democrats will regain the majority in the Senate for the first time in six years. Trump is being slammed for his repeated claims that his narrow defeat in the presidential election in Georgia was due to voter fraud, and for his numerous vocal attacks on the state’s Republican governor and secretary of state for refusing to aid his attempts to upend the state’s election results.

Veteran New Hampshire-based Republican consultant David Carney, a veteran of multiple GOP presidential campaigns over the past three decades, said that the attack on the Capitol “was a horrific disaster” for president.

To make matters worse for Trump, he’s currently locked out of Facebook and Instagram, and temporarily lost access to his Twitter account. That could be devastating to a president who has depended on his social media platforms to spread his message.

Carney, a top political adviser to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, said a 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.”

While Trump’s taken a hit, he can still point to plenty of metrics to show his clout with his party.

While only eight Senate Republicans stood by the president’s push to reverse the election results – following the attack on the Capitol – roughly two-thirds of House Republicans remained with Trump. That large group included the top two House Republicans – minority leader Kevin McCarthy and minority whip Steve Scalise.

Trump can tout the 74 million Americans who voted for him in November’s presidential election. And ahead of this week, the president’s approval rating among Republicans had stayed in the stratosphere – around 90% in a trio of national polls conducted last month.

In New Hampshire, a top Trump supporter is standing by the president.

“I have lost confidence in our Republican U.S. Senators/Congressmen,” state Rep. Al Baldasaro wrote on Twitter Thursday. The Londonderry Republican lawmaker, who was a adviser and surrogate for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and a New Hampshire co-chair of the president’s 2020 re-election campaign, emphasized that “@POTUS did a great job and is not responsible.”

New Hampshire state Rep. Fred Doucette of Salem, who served as 2016 and 2020 Trump campaign co-chair in the Granite State, spotlighted 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 said 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.

Lewandowski mulls a gubernatorial run

Corey Lewandowski, a top Trump political adviser, this week said he’s considering a run for governor of New Hampshire.

The Republican from Windham who served as campaign manager of Trump’s 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign and as a top adviser to us 2020 re-election campaign, made the news early in the week in a radio interview on “Good Morning New Hampshire with Jack Heath.”

“If I’m going to run for office, if I’m going to look at that, then I’m going to look at being the chief executive of our state, where I think you can actually directly impact people’s lives,” Lewandowski said in an ensuing interview with Fox News and the Monitor.

Lewandowski’s news comes as popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has said that any decision on whether he runs for re-election for a fourth two-year term in 2022 – or run for the U.S. Senate or return to the private sector – would be at least six months away (likely after the current state legislative session and after the hammering out of New Hampshire’s next 2-year budget).

Asked about Sununu – who in November won a landslide re-election victory – Lewandowski said “my decision to get involved and run for office is not contingent on anyone else’s decision. I don’t make decisions based on what somebody else is doing to do. I don’t control if Chris Sununu decides to seek re-election or not seek re-election. I can’t do that. I have to do what’s best for me and my family and what I think would best in the interests of the people of New Hampshire.”

“If Gov. Sununu decides he wants to seek re-election, then he’s more than welcome to do that. If the governor decides that he wants to go to the private sector or if the governor decides he wants to run for the U.S. Senate, I can’t and don’t impact any of those decisions. That’s for him and his family to make,” Lewandowski added.

Lewandowski made similar comments in a radio interview with Heath and in a separate interview with WMUR-TV.

Asked about Lewandowski’s comments, Sununu told Heath that “I could care less about what other folks are thinking about doing. If I want to run for governor again, we’ll run again. If we want to run for Senate, if we want to do other things, go back to the private sector, so many variables come in that decision.”

Sununu, pointing to Lewandowski’s flirting in 2019 with a 2020 Senate run, said, “I don’t know Corey’s motives. He talked about running for Senate for months and then all of a sudden he didn’t want to do it and all that kind of stuff. Anyone talking about running for anything right now, it’s a lot of talk. Folks can do what they want. They can run for whatever they want.”

And pointing to his 90% to 9% defeat of GOP challenger and conservative activist Karen Testerman in September’s gubernatorial primary, the governor added: “If I were to run for a fourth term and Corey wanted to primary, I guess he can’t do worse than the last primary candidate that ran against me.”

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