Briefing

The conservatives who have turned on Trump

After the GOP's disappointing showing in the 2022 midterms, some Republicans are pulling their support for the former president

Former President Donald Trump wasn't on the 2022 midterm ballot, but more than 230 Republican candidates he endorsed were, and many of them lost their races. There were some bright spots for Trump, but they were few and far between. The "red wave" Republicans hoped for never appeared, and Democrats had a stronger showing than expected. The GOP losses were pinned to Trump, with ABC News' Jonathan Karl calling him election night's "biggest loser." Since then, some conservative commentators, publications, and politicians who were previously vocal Trump supporters have started jumping ship.

Candace Owens

On her Daily Wire podcast, Candace Owens shared a story she'd been holding onto for months, telling listeners that after her December 2021 interview with Trump, he was "actually rude to me," and that is what "made me for the first time question him as a person." Owens said Trump misinterpreted comments she made about his COVID-19 vaccine stance, and his subsequent churlishness shows he's not a leader. She went on to lament that Trump was "having fun" in 2016 and had "electric" energy in 2020, but he's now "in an angry space" and his 2024 presidential pitch "needs to be more than 'I'm back.'"

Chris Christie

The former New Jersey governor jumped on the Trump-bashing bandwagon on Nov. 15, telling a room full of Republican governors that he was tired of watching the GOP lose races because of Trump. "In 2021 we lose two winnable [Senate] seats in Georgia," Christie said. "And in 2022 we vastly underperform historic norms given inflation and gas prices and crime and a president at 40 per cent. I'm tired of losing." Axios reports that Christie's speech "received huge applause." 

Mike Pence

Trump and his former vice president haven't exactly been on good terms since Trump repeatedly pressured Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. On the day Trump officially announced he was running again in 2024, Pence told Fox News' Special Report that Republican voters "have better choices" for president, adding that Americans want leadership that will "reflect the kind of respect and civility that the American people demonstrate to each other every day." Of course, Pence is mulling his own 2024 run, telling ABC News: "We're giving it consideration in our house."

Rupert Murdoch...

The media mogul who owns 21st Century Fox and News Corp put his full weight behind Trump's 2016 presidential bid, and the two men reportedly spoke "as often as multiple times a week" while Trump was in the White House. But the friendship has soured, with i News reporting that Murdoch has made it clear to Trump that he will not be backing his 2024 bid. "There have been conversations between them during which Rupert made it clear to Donald that we cannot back another run for the White House," a News Corp source said.

...and his newspapers

On Nov. 10, The New York Post's cover depicted Trump as Humpty Dumpty. In a callback to Trump's failed campaign promises, the headline blared: "Don (who couldn't build a wall) had a great fall — can all of the GOP's men put the party back together again?" The words inside the tabloid weren't any kinder, with conservative writer John Podhoretz dubbing the former president "Toxic Trump" and calling him "the political equivalent of a can of Raid," with the election results suggesting that "Trump is perhaps the most profound vote repellent in modern American history."

The Wall Street Journal editorial board called Trump the GOP's "biggest loser," blaming him for midterm losses in races that should have been easy wins. "Maybe by now Republicans are sick and tired of losing," the board wrote. 

Mo Brooks

Outgoing Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) hasn't been happy with Trump since the former president rescinded his endorsement of Brooks' Senate campaign. This came after Brooks, who echoed Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud, suggested that maybe it was time to start focusing on future elections rather than the 2020 contest; when Trump revoked his endorsement, he accused Brooks of going "woke." Brooks didn't win his primary in June, and now, he's holding nothing back; during an interview with AL.com on Nov. 11, Brooks said it would be "a bad mistake for the Republicans to have Donald Trump as their nominee in 2024. Donald Trump has proven himself to be dishonest, disloyal, incompetent, crude, and a lot of other things that alienate so many independents and Republicans." This is not the talk of a bitter man, Brooks declared. "Keep in mind 2016 when I said he was dishonest," he said. "You cannot trust a single word that he says and I have never recanted that."

Peter King

Former Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a once staunch Trump supporter who told The New Yorker during the height of the pandemic that Trump was "a smart guy" doing "an excellent job," has also cooled on him. "I strongly believe he should no longer be the face of the Republican Party," King told The New York Times, adding that the GOP cannot "become a personality cult." He blames Trump for the Republican midterm losses, and told The New York Daily News the longer he stays the face of the Republican Party, "the more his support is going to diminish. It's almost as if he's in his own world."

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