GOP Rift Continues After Trump Presidency Former President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on Feb. 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 12 April 2021 10:32 AM
Former President Donald Trump might be gone from the White House, but the divide he's caused within the GOP remains.
Republican party members continue to be split about Trump, with one group that wants to move on from him and another seeking to embrace the populist conservatism the businessman rode to victory in 2016, The Hill reported.
Trump certainly is not going away. He has reportedly indicated to some lawmakers he can shield them from primary challenges next year, and already has endorsed candidates such as Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Republican strategist Jim McLaughlin called such announcements "a great preemptive thing to put off any potential challengers,” and added Trump has a "very good relationship" with Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who's leading the GOP Senate fundraising arm.
Trump injecting himself into the 2022 election cycle will likely encourage Republicans to vigorously defend the previous administration’s record and also aggressively "fight against" President Joe Biden’s agenda.
And those who choose not to embrace one of those strategies are in for an earful.
On Saturday, Trump lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and former Vice President Mike Pence while speaking to Republican donors.
"The key to this triumphant future will be to build on the gains our amazing movement has made over the past four years,” Trump said, according to the prepared remarks. “Under our leadership, we welcomed millions upon millions of new voters into the Republican coalition. We transformed the Republican Party into a party that truly fights for all Americans.”
GOP members such as Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., see Trump’s brand of populism as the party’s future and believe it can expand the GOP base among working-class voters.
Hawley said he will announce “a trust-busting agenda for [the] 21st century" this week focused on "giant woke corporations [that] keep telling Biden’s big lie about Georgia."
Hawley joined Trump last year in endorsing $2,000 stimulus checks in what became a $900 billion compromise measure passed by Congress in December. The checks ended up being about $600 in that deal as McConnell and others in the Senate were opposed to the larger sum.
But some GOP lawmakers would like to move on from some elements of the former president’s style, such as his approach to trade and foreign policy.
There’s reportedly uncertainty, for instance, whether to renounce Trump’s trade and tariff practices, which Biden is retaining for now. Also, many GOP lawmakers seem to be OK with Biden’s decision to mend fences with NATO allies.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, were part of a group that met with Biden and said they wanted to work with him. All three senators were frequently thorns in Trump's side.
Biden and fellow Democrats, however, have mostly chosen to go their own way and passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package without any Republican votes. Democrats appear ready — and, in some cases, eager — to pass further legislation by the same partisan means.
Unlike Hawley, Murkowski wants the GOP to return to being the "big tent" party that it was under former President Ronald Reagan.
"If the Republican Party continues to be the party of Trump, I’m not quite sure where I fit," she said in January.
Trump is known to be looking to back a primary challenger for Murkowski, yet, on Friday, a super PAC linked to McConnell — the Senate Leadership Fund — endorsed Murkowski for reelection in 2022.
"Alaska needs the kind of experienced representation that Lisa Murkowski provides in the United States Senate,” said the group’s president, Steven Law, who formerly served as McConnell’s chief of staff.
Since November's election, McConnell has moved away from Trump. He stopped speaking to the then-president in mid-December, and, in February, denounced Trump in a fiery floor speech.
Some Democrats insist they hope Trump continues to inject himself into the 2022 election and runs again in 2024 — a move Trump is said to be seriously considering.
"It makes it easier for the Democrats to pick it up. He’s been so radical and outrageous on so many issues recently that I think it makes an easier pick up for Democrats if he’s in," said Ben Nuckels, a Democratic strategist who helped Gov. Tony Evers, D-Wis., win in 2018.
Brandon Scholz, a Republican strategist based in Wisconsin, said Trump’s endorsement "certainly is going to work for the Democrats who are trying to create the same campaign that they ran against Donald Trump in the presidential race against Ron Johnson."
Scholz added: "They hated Donald Trump — that is what the campaign was about. My sense is they’re trying to recreate that campaign."