12 Republicans broke with the President in this border emergency vote. But what jumps out to me is that Cory Gardner, almost certainly the most vulnerable Republican in 2020, voted for Trump. Thom Tillis of North Carolina did too, though he’s in a much better position for reelection than Gardner. He even penned an oped opposing the President on this before flipping.
Gardner’s decision illustrates a core principle of Trump Republicanism. Even in cases where a vote is clearly against public opinion at home (state or district) and even in cases where it is clearly politically damaging, they almost always come around to Trump.
Why? Simple. Because even if they’re on the wrong side of a majority of their constituents, Trump will go to war over the disloyalty and kill the member of Congress with Republican partisans. Without Republican partisans no Republican can win anywhere.
This vote just gives Gardner’s opponents another bit of Trumpism to bludgeon him with. It’s going to be hard to win. But if he lost Trump Republicans, which now pretty much equates to strongly identified Republican partisans, victory is more or less impossible.
It’s a tough position to be in.