Washington (AFP) – While American Republicans cheered for impressive gains in the fall state election, their leader may not have been so thrilled as he followed the results of his stronghold in South Florida.
For the results of the gubernatorial races – a victory in left-leaning Virginia and a surprisingly narrow loss in deeply Democratic New Jersey – have proven one thing without a doubt: Republicans can win without Donald Trump.
Whisper it, but five years after fully submitting to the will of its mercurial leader, and a year before the crucial midterm election, the Republican Party tentatively imagines life after Donald.
“At this point he would be the frontrunner if he chose to compete in the 2024 presidential race,” Matt Lacombe, assistant professor of political science at the New York Barnard College Liberal Arts School, told AFP. .
“But it is also very possible that the coordination between potential candidates and party officials (…) is sufficient to prevent it from continuing or succeeding in a second round.”
After Trump won the Republican nomination for president in May 2016, the party abandoned its political platform at its next two congresses, preferring to simply declare allegiance to its exuberant leader.
The consensus remains that all roads to Congress go through Mar-a-Lago – that to be successful in Washington, one had to embrace the ring in Palm Beach, flattering Trump and his ultra-loyal base of tens of millions of staunch devotees.
Republican politicians who don’t stick to the line know they risk public disguise and a main challenge and death threats to their families at best if his supporters were particularly on fire.
“Despite losing his megaphone on social media, his supporters still energize grassroots supporters, generate donations and in some cases eliminate competitors and force retirements,” Tommy told AFP Goodwin, Washington-based political consultant and lobbyist.
Some prominent Republicans are, however, taking advantage of recent governors’ races to demand a correction of course, sailing around Trump and his “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him by the Democrats.
In Virginia, Republican multimillionaire Glenn Youngkin far exceeded Trump’s 2020 performance in the suburbs, especially among independents and women.
Trump immediately congratulated himself on this, but in reality, Youngkin has pressed on the support of the former reality TV star and has done all he can over the past few weeks to keep his high-profile endorser out. distance.
Also in New Jersey, Republican Jack Ciattarelli started out very pro-Trump, even speaking at a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally in 2020, but distanced himself from the ex-president during the campaign proper. .
The suburbs are likely to be the main battlegrounds again next year, when the stakes are control of the House of Representatives and Senate and 36 governors – but Trump is far less popular there than in the countryside. .
The takeaway for many Republicans is that borrowing heavily from Trump’s playbook while diligently avoiding the man himself could be the key.
The former president’s approval plummeted to a record 34% after the Jan.6 uprising, when thousands of his supporters stormed the United States Capitol to prevent lawmakers from certifying victory by Joe Biden.
Trump has since issued a number of statements praising the insurgents and defending their threats to the life of his vice president, Mike Pence.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the 75-year-old real estate mogul to stay out of mid-sessions, telling reporters: “I think we need to talk about the future, not the past. . “
Still, Rick Scott, chairman of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee for 2022, told NBC any Republican would be “foolish” to reject Trump’s endorsement – underscoring the dilemma Republicans face.
Donald Trump is where he wants to be – the center of attention, a crying kid in the candy aisle of a crowded grocery store, demanding more soda while he throws bags of treats at other kids “Peter Loge, associate professor at George Washington University, told AFP.
“It’s hard to imagine her wavering so others can have their turn in the spotlight.”
“The past is never dead”
Trump’s chair of intimidation is not what it was before social media bans effectively curtailed his day-to-day influence and, in any case, his election secret sauce has never been more powerful than ‘he claimed.
Republicans did well enough to vote against in 2020 – keeping their Senate defeat at the narrowest possible margin and almost taking the House – but stumbled at the presidential level.
And Trump is the first president since Herbert Hoover almost a century ago to lose the House, Senate, and White House in a single term.
“So far, the candidates backed by Trump have not performed particularly well,” said Sam Nelson, associate professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Toledo.
While Republican primary candidates actively seek his endorsement, which is valuable in Republican races, that same endorsement can be somewhat dangerous in a general election in that it motivates Democrats to vote against the Trump-backed candidate. . “
Loge believes challengers who think they have nothing to lose may emerge, alongside others concerned about the future of the Republican Party and the country.
“The 2022 midterm elections will also go a long way in determining the level of support for Trump in 2024,” Loge told AFP.
“If the Trump-backed candidates win the primary and general elections, Trump’s stock will increase. If Trump-backed candidates lose the primary and general elections, Trump’s stock will go down.”
But Trump remains a hero to the millions of disgruntled new voters he brought to the Republican cause in 2016, and is credited with remaking the federal justice system like his right-wing supporters.
His tax cuts aimed at reducing the deficit remain popular among the working classes, although they increasingly lean towards the mega-rich in the long run.
“William Faulkner wrote the famous ‘The past is never dead. It is not even past’,” Mark Bayer, former chief of staff for the Senate and the House, told AFP.
“The same can be said of Trump’s trance-inducing influence on the Republican Party. His grip … is as strong as it was when he was president.”
© 2021 AFP