As Republicans grapple with their lackluster performance in Tuesday’s midterm elections, one man has begun to take on an unusual amount of criticism from his fellow partisans: Donald Trump.
The former president, who boosted some inexperienced Senate candidates in their primaries who underperformed on Tuesday, declared before the midterms that he wanted “all the credit” if Republicans won. “If they lose, I should not be blamed at all,” he told NewsNation.
But now that Republicans are facing the prospect of being in the minority in the Senate and are still waiting to see whether they will officially nab an uncomfortably narrow majority in the House, some unexpected voices within the party are beginning to question Trump’s influence.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a Republican who strongly supported Trump, said the poor performance of some of his endorsed candidates is a sign he should step aside.
“It turns out that those he did not endorse on the same ticket did better than the ones he did endorse,” she said. “That gives you a clue that the voters want to move on. And a true leader knows when they have become a liability to the mission.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) — who cruised to victory as the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate Don Bolduc lost by a large margin — told SiriusXM on Friday that Trump could “muck up” the opportunity for GOP Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker to win if he announces his run before a December runoff in the state.
“What the former president doesn’t understand is if he announces … he’s not going to keep anyone else out of the race,” Sununu said, calling it an “awkward” thing to do. “I don’t think they’ve started out very well.”
The volume of open criticism illustrates a rare moment of weakness for Trump among Republicans just as he prepares to announce his 2024 presidential bid next week. Exit polls showed his favorability as even lower than President Biden’s on Tuesday, and polls of Republican voters suggest he is losing ground to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in hypothetical presidential matchups.
But Republicans who have long been critical of Trump are wary of getting their hopes up that the party’s newfound critiques mean they are ready to move on this time. An outpouring of criticism for Trump following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in 2016 and following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol last year was quickly followed by backtracking as Republican base voters rallied around Trump.
“We’ve heard this song before,” said Doug Heye, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee who has long been critical of Trump. “The question is: Will this time be different?”
This time around, the criticism comes as Trump is attempting to restart his political career and faces potential challenges from Republicans who lack his baggage. The fact that many candidates who emulated his style, such as defeated Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, fared the worst on Tuesday also underscores Trump’s own loss in 2020. His expectation that GOP candidates endorse his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen kept them mired in a backward-looking and conspiratorial message that turned off many voters. [Continue reading…]