There were those who had never wanted to support him, there are now the ex-faithful who have become his detractors: a growing part of the Republican Party is now displaying in black and white its aversion to Donald Trump, seen as the architect of repeated electoral defeats.
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These Republicans turned a blind eye to his excesses as long as he cut taxes, appointed conservative judges and, above all, as long as he won.
But Republican underperformance in the midterm elections, largely attributed to Mr. Trump’s influence, is pushing figures on the American right out of the woods.
“I am proud of what has been done – tax reform, deregulation, justice reform”, acknowledged on ABC Paul Ryan, Republican figure and former Speaker of the House of Representatives (2015-2019).
“But I am one of those who say + Never again Trump +. Why? Because I want to win (in the election) and with Trump we lose. It was very clear to us in 2018, 2020 and now in 2022.”
Anti-Trump conservatives played an important role in Democratic victories in 2018, in the midterm elections, and especially in 2020, with the arrival of Joe Biden in the White House.
But they were seen as apostates by the leadership of a party that had embraced the tempestuous and populist vein of its leader, Donald Trump.
“Trump could well lose”
The new critics of Trumpism are not simple free electrons, but many influential voices, able to shape the future of the “Grand Old Party” (GOP).
It includes a handful of governors, former cabinet ministers and senior officials under Mr. Trump and – inevitably – potential rivals.
Ron DeSantis, re-elected Governor of Florida on November 8 and seen as his most serious opponent for the 2024 primary, is particularly discreet about Donald Trump as he approaches his popularity in the polls.
A Harvard CAPS-Harris opinion study places the former president as the first victim of the midterm elections, quite the opposite of a triumphant Ron DeSantis.
“If they are both candidates, it will be a hell of a game, and Trump could well lose,” said Mark Penn, one of the authors of the poll, to The Hill newspaper.
All eyes are now on Georgia, where a candidate backed by the former real estate mogul faces the incumbent Democrat in a runoff for a crucial Senate seat.
Appointed by Mr. Trump when he was in power, Mike Pompeo (CIA, Secretary of State) and Nikki Haley (representation at the UN) recently distanced themselves from their former boss. Chris Christie, a lieutenant in the winning 2016 campaign, said the GOP “just loses” because of Donald Trump’s personality.
And with Ron DeSantis’ growing popularity, many fear the former president’s creation of an independent political party in the event of a defeat in the 2024 Republican primary – a frightening prospect for the conservative camp.
“The threat is simple: If the whole party doesn’t follow in his footsteps, he’ll burn the whole house down by luring his troops out of the GOP,” Bill Barr, his former attorney general, told The New York Post.
It is prudent, however, to remember that with each bump in his presidency – two impeachment proceedings, multiple investigations, etc. – Republicans abandoned it before it rose from its ashes, more popular than ever.
But, unlike yesterday, his name no longer sounds like a promise of electoral victory.
“It’s been roughly three elections in a row that we’ve lost because of Donald Trump, so on the third warning, out! exclaimed outgoing Republican Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, on CNN.
“That’s the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result,” he added. “Donald Trump kept saying, ‘We’re going to win so much we’ll be tired of winning. I’m tired of losing. That’s all he did. »