As President Trump’s term comes to a screeching halt, he leaves behind a party split between MAGA loyalists and Republicans who are ready to turn the page on his presidency.
“We’re done with the surrender caucus. We’re done with pina colada Republicans who go to retreats in resorts in Amelia Island in the most important three days of our republic,” said John Fredericks, a conservative radio host who served on the Trump campaign’s 2020 advisory committee, referring to the Republican National Committee winter meeting on Amelia Island, Florida, where top Republican brass are in situ with grassroots activists this week. “While Rome burned, they are sipping margaritas out of swizzle sticks.”
Fredericks told the Washington Examiner that in time, party leaders would have to start ceding control.
“The Trump movement, the deplorables, the America First movement is bigger and stronger and more vibrant than it’s ever been right now,” he said. “We are the new woke, and we’re going to take over the Republican Party. We’re going to primary the RINOs and hold them accountable.”
But Trump isn’t politically invincible, other Republicans warn.
“Certainly in Georgia, you saw the limits of his political power,” said Mike McKenna, a former top aide in Trump’s White House. “You can’t just wave a magic wand to get people to win.”
And if Trump strikes out alone, he will need to marshal more than just his base to secure major electoral wins, for other candidates or for himself.
On Thursday night, a top presidential prospect and former Trump official, Nikki Haley, rebuked him.
At the party’s Sea Island winter meeting, Haley pointedly criticized the president’s actions leading up to his supporters breaching the Capitol on Wednesday, determining that he “will be judged harshly by history.”
“Right now, a majority of the blood inside of the Republican Party is Trump. But there’s a thousand cuts,” a former top campaign aide said. “So, ask me this question in a month, in three months, in a year. Eventually, the body of the Republican Party is not going to bleed Trump.”
The “gig is up,” she said. “There is no more Trumpworld. It doesn’t exist anymore,” she said. “He’s going to see how quickly 74 million Americans dispersed.”
One longtime Republican operative said she was inundated through the night and into the next day with calls and messages from friends who hitched their wagons to the president and just now were confronting an increasingly hostile world.
“Some of them worked on the 2016 race for Trump. Some of them are inside the White House. Some of them worked on the reelection campaign. And they’re really, seriously worried,” this person told the Washington Examiner on Thursday. “They are worried about how people are going to view them, Trump, the movement, about their reputation, and they are worried about retaliation.”
Still, hours after Wednesday’s violent siege on the U.S. Capitol, which lawmakers in both parties said Trump incited, it wasn’t altogether clear how much had changed among the grassroots base.
Calling into a private RNC member breakfast, where party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel put him on speakerphone, the president was greeted with applause.
There was no mention of the chaos less than 24 hours earlier, which left four people dead and prompted resignations from Cabinet officials and top aides.
“There’s no question that this is the president’s party,” Florida Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters told the Washington Examiner. Gruters, who was in attendance, was co-chairman of the 2016 Trump for President campaign in the state and an early supporter.
“There were some feelings shared by some of the members and a lot of different opinions,” Gruters said. But he stressed that officials were looking forward, not back.
And while GOP operatives believe the week’s events damaged Trump’s brand, they also underscore his reach.
“Here’s what we have,” Fredericks said. “We have speed. And we have numbers. One million people showed up in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 on five days notice.”
On Amelia Island, McDaniel won easily her reelection, having dispatched potential challengers with Trump’s early endorsement.
“The president still controls the hearts and minds of somewhere between 25 and 40 million people,” said McKenna. “Did he lose all of his marginal people [Wednesday]? Yes. Did he lose a bunch of brand value? Yes. Did he lose those 25 to 40 million people? I don’t think so. As long as those people hold tight to him, he’s going to be a force in this country because nobody else has 40 million people standing around.”
In carving a path forward, the former Trump campaign aide said she doubts Trump’s lasting effect on the party.
“This movement started with Ross Perot, it was moved into the tea party, and then it kind of jolted into MAGA, and Donald Trump tapped into that,” she said, crediting Trump as “the face of, and the voice of” the movement.
“The party has lost its soul,” she said. “Does it come back in some version of Donald Trump? Or does it come back in some version of MAGA? I doubt it.”
Fredericks is more optimistic.
“The movement has eclipsed its current leaders,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Author: Katherine Doyle
Source: Washington Examiner: GOP unity fractures between Trump loyalists and skeptics