Three weeks ago, Donald Trump was radioactive, even in the top quarters of his own party. Now, those same Republicans are convinced they can’t live without the energy he gives off, even if it proves toxic.
“We need each other. We certainly need him and his input and his voters,” said Jonathan Barnett, an Arkansas RNC committee member. “But again he needs us too. Together, we gotta work this thing out.”
Trump’s hold on the Republican Party over the past four years has been remarkable. But for a brief moment after the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, it seemed tenuous.
GOP leaders condemned him for helping incite the riots that threatened their lives and ended five others. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump bore “responsibility” and called on him to accept blame for the Jan. 6 attacks. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hasn’t spoken to Trump since Dec. 15, made no secret of his disgust over the former president’s role in the chaos that erupted at the Capitol. Ten Republican members of the House voted for Trump’s impeachment.
But that was then. Now, the GOP is engaged in a delicate dance to keep Trump and his base of voters in the fold while not seeming too beholden to him. Without Trump’s cooperation, the party fears losing a fundraising giant just as it pivots to a midterm cycle in which it hopes to regain majorities in each chamber of Congress.
“What you’re seeing is not a particularly shocking move, which is taking the path of least resistance,” said a GOP strategist. “There’s no real benefit to fighting this war if you want a future in politics.”
In the weeks since the Capitol rampage, top Republicans have tried cozying back up to Trump while preserving some semblance of distance — a line-straddling that involves a mix of obsequiousness and detachment as they tend to opposite wings of the party. [Continue reading…]