Republicans: Will they stick with Trump?
“A torrent of impeachment developments has triggered a reckoning in the Republican Party,” said Robert Costa and Philip Rucker in The Washington Post. In the halls of Congress, GOP senators can be spotted sharing “hushed conversations about constitutional and moral considerations” over President Trump’s conduct, knowing that giving public voice to such concerns could cost them their seats. The president’s “command over the Republican base is uncontested,” and he has proved more than willing to visit his wrath upon any Republican who gets out of line. Still, with troubling new revelations coming daily, Republicans are left to offer little aside from “silence, shrugged shoulders, or pained defenses.” They will likely retreat to the rationale Tucker Carlson provided last week, said Oliver Darcy in CNN.com. In an op-ed published in the Daily Caller, the Fox News host conceded that Trump’s pressure on Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden “was wrong,” but contended that “it’s hard to argue” that Trump’s conduct rose “to the level of an impeachable offense.”
There is a very sensible reason why Republicans are loath to buck Trump, said Daniel McCarthy in Spectator.us. They can’t win a presidential election without him. The country’s demographic and cultural changes have made orthodox, Reagan/Bush conservatism unpopular; Rust Belt states can’t be won by a Republican promising free trade and pro–Big Business policies. Trump’s angry populism put states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in play. When Trump is gone, Republicans will have to reinvent themselves again—and they currently have no idea how to do it.
In the short term, Republicans are “unlikely to turn on Trump,” said Lee Drutman in FiveThirtyEight.com. He “defines the Republican Party brand as president, so if Trump is unpopular, the Republican Party is unpopular.” But the calculus could change if they fear a severely damaged Trump will cost the GOP not only the White House in 2020 but also the Senate. Look for a single “bold leader” from the GOP to stand up and signal to the rest of the herd that it’s OK to stop “defending Trump” for what’s “increasingly indefensible.” It can’t be a moderate, like Sen. Mitt Romney, but a rank-and-file Republican senator who is up for re-election in a solidly red state—someone like Sen. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana or Sen. Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma. “If they waver, that will signal that Trump’s days are numbered.”