But even Republicans who admit he lost the 2020 election don’t see his legacy tarnished. And as the dominant figure in the GOP, he is turning what increasingly looks like a likely Republican majority in the House next year into a political weapon by casting himself as a puppet master for the party’s top House leader, Kevin McCarthy of California. . On Thursday, the House Minority Leader was subpoenaed along with four other Republican lawmakers by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
The new MAGA candidates
The former president has backed winners in high-profile tests of his endorsement power in the Ohio Senate race and the first incumbent-incumbent showdown of the year in the House, even as his candidate fell short in the Nebraska gubernatorial primary.
But those early congressional primaries and rumors of the 2024 presidential campaign are also raising a body of younger radical candidates reclaiming the MAGA creed, even without Trump’s endorsement, and raising the question of whether the movement Trump invented is starting. get out of control of him.
This is the most notable case in Pennsylvania, where Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette has become a major threat to Trump-backed Mehmet Oz and another major candidate, former hedge fund executive David McCormick, who has become from a mainstream Republican into a Trump rabble-rousing acolyte, even without the former president’s endorsement.
And in Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has taken Trump’s tactics to the next level by enacting a MAGA-like agenda. While Trump’s campaign speeches focus on his complaints about the 2020 election, DeSantis has used the unbridled power of the governor’s office to pillory the “awakened” left and the press. He has focused on LGBTQ rights under the guise of “parental rights.” And he has built a national fan base and a gargantuan war chest by taking on liberals who he says are trying to erase America’s cultural heritage and traditional values.
Meanwhile, some of Trump’s selected candidates, such as JD Vance, the new Republican candidate for Ohio Senate, have been able to frame the MAGA movement’s populist and nationalist goals more succinctly than the former president.
At a Trump rally in Pennsylvania for Oz last week, for example, Vance drew a rousing response from the crowd when he described the move as a fight between “the people” and established Republicans, who he said would send American jobs overseas. and start “stupid wars we don’t have to fight.” Vance, once a harsh critic of Trump who used his endorsement to secure the GOP nod, called the midterms a “war for the soul of the GOP.”
And while Barnette, a conservative commentator, has touted her far-right credentials, she has bluntly said that “MAGA does not belong to President Trump,” hinting at the future of the movement beyond the former president.
“Although he coined the word, MAGA actually belongs to the people,” he said in a recent debate. “Our values have never, ever changed to the values of President Trump. It was President Trump who changed and aligned with our values.”
Republican operatives in the Keystone state are scrambling to apprehend Barnette, believing she is untested and uninvestigated, after a series of earlier inflammatory statements, and could hand Democrats a seat in the fall that could determine which party controls the vote. US Senate Trump, who hates being upstaged, is not taking kindly to Barnette’s raise, which could damage his kingmaker status if she triumphs over Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate primary on Tuesday.
“Kathy Barnette can never win the general election against radical left Democrats,” Trump said in a statement Thursday. “She has a lot of things in her past that haven’t been properly explained or investigated,” he said, a comment that seemed a bit rich given the considerable closet skeletons she overcame to become president.
But, characteristically, Trump left himself a way out and a possible avenue to build on his success if he wins, saying that if Barnette can clear up any doubts about her past, “she’s going to have a wonderful future in the Republican Party, and I’ll be behind her.” all the way”.
Still, Trump ended his statement by reaffirming his support for Oz, whose fame and TV stardom appear to have been largely behind the endorsement of a candidate who Republican purists say is not a true conservative.
“Dr. Oz is the only one who can easily defeat the Mad and Lunatic Democrat in Pennsylvania. A vote for anyone else in the Primary is a vote against Victory in the Fall!” Trump wrote.
Trump can’t just order his supporters what to do
While the former president’s endorsement was widely credited with setting Vance apart from the rest in Ohio, the idea that he simply barks orders and his supporters jump is a caricature.
In Georgia, for example, Trump is hugely popular with Republicans, but his effort to replace Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who refused to join his election-stealing scheme, with a candidate handpicked in the former senator. David Perdue seems to be failing.
“People love Trump, but Kemp will win,” Josh Brown, a 39-year-old from Rockmart, Georgia, said Thursday. Another voter, Jim Mayer, 65, of Rome, added: “Trump’s endorsement means a lot, but I’ve followed Kemp for a long time.”
Audrey Burch, 55, also from Rome, is torn between Kemp and Perdue. She blames Kemp for not doing more to address Trump’s concerns about the 2020 election, but she regretted not seeing Perdue campaigning.
“I hope he’s not planning on winning just because he’s teaming up with Trump,” he said.
Biden sees an opportunity
The rise of MAGA candidates, who in some cases are more extreme than Trump, is raising the stakes for Democrats who may end up opposing them.
Some voters who crowded into a bar in the southeastern Pennsylvania city of York on Thursday to see Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination, are watching the Republican primary with alarm.
But York resident Angela Stever predicted that a Radical Republican candidate from MAGA would carry Democrats to the polls.
“They are loud, they make a lot of noise, but we go out when it matters. Democrats always come out when it matters,” she said.
And after months in which Democrats have struggled to find a message, Biden has recently taken offense at casting the midterms as a choice between his agenda and what he now calls “ultra-MAGA” Republicans.
He also warned of the potential human costs of Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s 11-point plan, which would require all Americans to pay some form of income tax and could create an opportunity for cuts to Social Security and Medicare by ending the programs. every five years. .
Although Scott’s plan has been rejected by many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Biden charged that the GOP “doesn’t want to solve inflation by cutting costs; he wants to solve it by raising taxes and reducing revenues.”
But there is no guarantee that running a fierce campaign against Trump will mitigate the expected Democratic losses when Trump is not on the ticket.
Last November, Biden, former President Barack Obama and Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe tried to turn the Virginia gubernatorial race into a referendum on Trump. But Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin scored a narrow victory in a state Biden had won by 10 points the previous year by addressing parental concerns about education.
That kind of model may not work everywhere, as Youngkin, whose corporate image played well in moderate Washington, DC suburbs, was able to keep the former president at arm’s length. But it shows the risk Biden is taking by turning completely anti-MAGA so early.
And the headwinds against Biden and the Democrats are so strong this year that it’s possible the MAGA candidates could ride into office on a red wave. Such a scenario could transform the Senate GOP conference as older, more established Republicans walk out and younger, more extreme senators, surfing the anti-elite uprising sparked by Trump, replace them.
That dynamic has already emerged in the House, where McCarthy has long fought to keep MAGA firebrands like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida at bay, as they have been repeatedly distracted from the Party’s ability to Republican to push a message.
But with Trump so involved in trying to pick winners and losers, the entirety of the primary season will cast a verdict not only on the power of the man, but also on the power of the movement and whether he controls the forces he unleashed.
If there are any signs of weakness, increasingly prominent figures like DeSantis are circling, ready to swoop in and carry the MAGA flag at a moment’s notice.
Ben Oakley is the guy you can really trust when it comes to Mainstream News. Whether it is something happening at the Wall Street of New York City or inside the White House in Washington, D.C., no one can cover mainstream news like Ben. Get a daily dose of Trustworthy News by Ben Oakley, only at Globe Live Media.