There’s plenty of blame to go around among Republicans following their election flop, and Donald Trump is coming in for his share. As we know, he usually takes that well.
“It was a Trump problem,” an unnamed Republican operative told NBC News. “Independents didn’t vote for candidates they viewed as extreme and too closely linked with Donald J. Trump.”
Rep. Jim Banks, who over the summer said he would support a 2024 Trump presidential run, said this weekend, “I’ll save my endorsement for another place and time for the 2024 race.”
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“Those who are most closely aligned with the former president under-performed,” Sen. Bill Cassidy said on Meet the Press Sunday, going on to describe the under-performers as those “closely aligned with the past.” Cassidy voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment, but he also cheered the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, so he’s not at all exempt from embracing extremely unpopular Republican positions.
“It’s basically the third election in a row that Donald Trump has cost us the race,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on CNN. “And it’s like, three strikes, you’re out.”
Explaining why Republicans shouldn’t nominate Trump in 2024, Hogan, a moderate Republican who won election twice in a blue state, said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Donald Trump kept saying we’re gonna be winning so much we’re gonna get tired of winning. I’m tired of losing. That’s all he’s done.” So Hogan’s problem is less with the ugliness and hate and more with the losing. Got it.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu got it weirdly close to right in his attempts to avoid overtly blaming Trump. “And the, obviously, you have all this other national stuff happening that, I think, scared a lot of folks, this extremism that's out there. And that's what this was. This was just a rejection of that extremism,” he said on ABC’s This Week.
Pressed by George Stephanopoulos on whether he was blaming Trump, Sununu responded, “You know, I know the media likes to do the pro- and anti-Trump stuff. It's not just about Donald Trump, right? There's a whole stream of things out there that can be deemed extreme, on one side and the other.” Sununu went on to briefly mention abortion and talk that “scared people.”
In other words, sure, it’s Trump, but it’s not just Trump. Republicans more broadly are scaring voters with their extremism, says this Republican governor just reelected in a state that simultaneously reelected a Democratic senator and two Democratic House members.
Sununu still wants some noxious stuff, but he got it right that Republicans can’t just blame Trump for their own extremism turning voters off. Trump may have made it popular to say the ugliest things out loud, he may have helped create the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade, he may have set the stage for a large number of Republicans to reject the results of the 2020 election, but Republican lawmakers and candidates are adults. They took that stuff and ran with it, and they did so in large part because they thought it would help them win power. Now that it didn’t, suddenly, Trump is—at least temporarily—getting some blame. But we’ve also seen this before, so we know that most prominent Republicans will be back on board with Trump before too long.
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