A key upcoming conservative event features a list of participants – and notable absentees – that displays the former president’s continued grasp over the Republican Party.
They lost the White House, control of the U.S. Senate and failed to gain back control of the House. But conservatives are partying like it’s 2019.
Donald Trump – no longer president, not yet a candidate – will be the headline speaker this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in Dallas. Also speaking will be his son Donald Trump Jr. and a slew of Trump loyalists, including former Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and former Trump medical adviser Ronny Jackson of Texas.
Not scheduled to appear? Conservatives like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, both of whom voted against Trump during the 45th president’s impeachment and Senate trial. Nor are there announced appearances by those who might be mulling a 2024 run, such as former Vice President Mike Pence or former Trump Cabinet members Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley.
It’s an awkward situation for Republicans as the party seeks to reposition itself for 2022 and 2024. On paper, the GOP should be optimistic: Redistricting, retirements and historical trends suggest Republicans have an excellent chance of taking back control of the House next year and a real chance, too, to flip the 50-50 Senate. With political observers skeptical that the now-popular, but 78-year-old, President Joe Biden will seek reelection in 2024, the next presidential campaign could be an open race, giving Republicans an advantage.
But as long as Trump – embattled legally but still very popular with a critical part of the GOP base – refuses to step aside, the future of the party and its hopeful leaders is in limbo.
“A lot of folks in large part are waiting to see what the former president does,” says Matt Terrill, a partner at Firehouse Strategies and former consultant to the Republican Party of Florida. “You can be a potential candidate out there running. But at the end of the day, they’re waiting out there on the sidelines and waiting to see what the former president does.”
And with Trump, the wait-out is a bit more complicated, experts say. Trump’s legal problems – his eponymous company is under criminal indictment in New York – could complicate a second run at the presidency. Further, Trump is known for his intolerance of those who cross him or challenge him, meaning would-be contenders have to make sure they don’t make too many waves if they dip a toe into the political waters.
Haley, for example, criticized Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt on the Capitol, telling a Republican National Committee meeting that the president’s actions would “be judged harshly by history.”
Two weeks ago, Haley was in first-caucuses state Iowa, delivering an address to the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Dinner, a forum for would-be presidential contenders. But at that dinner, she praised Trump and said she would not run if the former president decided to try to get his old job back. ReadMore
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