Talking Points

How Trump could start a GOP circular firing squad

As former President Trump rolled out his latest round of political endorsements, one thing was clear: It was time to settle some scores inside the Republican Party. 

Trump endorsed Michigan state Rep. Steve Carra's Republican primary challenge against influential longtime "RINO Congressman Fred Upton" (the ex-president's choice of words). "Upton has not done the job that our Country needs, for years has talked about leaving office and not running again, and he voted for Impeachment of the President of the United States on rigged up charges," Trump added. "He doesn't deserve to keep his seat."

Also in Michigan, Trump backed Kristina Karamo's candidacy for secretary of state after her criticism of the 2020 results locally and nationwide. If elected, Karamo, who Trump described as "strong on Crime, including the massive Crime of Election Fraud," would be the top elections official in the state. Trump urged her to "check out the Fake Election results that took place in the city of Detroit."

Trump had already endorsed Army veteran Sean Parnell for the Republican senatorial nomination in Pennsylvania. But he hadn't yet dismissed the retiring GOP incumbent as "Senator 'Gloomy' Pat Toomey." Trump said Toomey did not understand how the two of them carried the state together in 2016 because the senator is "not the sharpest tool in the shed."

Only one of the statements Trump issued on Tuesday took particular aim at the Democrats, chiding President Biden for his management of Afghanistan and the pandemic. He devoted most of his energy to intraparty fights involving himself personally, raising concerns that a circular firing squad could prevent the GOP from making anticipated gains in next year's midterm elections.

Trump has also yet to lift a finger on behalf of more thoughtful populist candidates like J.D. Vance and Blake Masters, running for Senate seats in Ohio and Arizona, respectively. He has mentioned policy in some of these missives, calling Toomey's views on trade "archaic" and blasting Rep. Liz Cheney as a "warmonger." But for Trump, the political has often been the personal.

Republicans clearly appreciate Trump's attitude. The jury is still out on how on board they are with the full populist program — and whether that, rather than the aforementioned combativeness, is really the Trumpism that could outlive Trump's political career.