GOP Lawmakers Warn Party Against Revolving Around Trump Before CPAC Speech

US Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) talks with reporters as he leaves the Capitol after the first day of former US President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial February 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. - Donald Trump's sec... US Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) talks with reporters as he leaves the Capitol after the first day of former US President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial February 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. - Donald Trump's second impeachment trial began with harrowing video footage of his supporters' assault on Congress, but Republican senators made clear how difficult it will be to win a conviction. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CHIP SOMODEVILLA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 28, 2021 1:55 p.m.

Hours before former President Trump is scheduled to close out this year’s CPAC — which will be Trump’s first major address since leaving office and inciting the mob behind the deadly Capitol insurrection last month — a few Republican lawmakers came forward on Sunday morning to warn their party against viewing the GOP as solely “Trump’s party.”

In the past month, Republican lawmakers who have dared to buck Trump have faced intraparty backlash in Congress and among state-level Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appears to have taken note of that phenomenon, between walking back his initial remarks blaming Trump for the Capitol attack last month and his desperate attempts at getting back into the former president’s good graces.

Trump, however, is set to conveniently ignore the backlash that Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of his impeachment have faced, during his remarks at CPAC on Sunday afternoon. In excerpts released ahead of his CPAC speech, the former president insists that the Republican Party is “united” and complains that “the only division is between a handful of Washington, D.C. establishment political hacks, and everybody else all over the country.” The former president’s CPAC speech comes amid Trump reportedly planning a super PAC for a midterms revenge tour against Republicans who’ve come out against him.

Speaking to the Trump loyalist base, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel told CBS on Sunday that she is doubling down on Trump as the future of the GOP because she believes “voters are saying overwhelmingly they agree with what President Trump did in office.”

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However, some Republican lawmakers beg to differ.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on Sunday argued on ABC News that despite Trump’s continued popularity among the GOP, the Republican Party’s “policies are what’s even more popular.” A handful of Republicans came out with stronger rebukes against the notion of the GOP becoming beholden to Trump on Sunday morning:

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL)

Pressed on whether the Republican Party is “still Donald Trump’s party,” Scott told Fox News that the GOP is “the voters’ party” and “always has been.”

Scott, who spoke at CPAC last week saying that he would not “mediate” debates among Republicans over Trump’s role in the party, went on to reiterate his stance that he will support incumbent Republicans in midterm races, despite Trump’s threats to support primary challenges to some GOP officials he views as disloyal for refusing to go along with his bogus election fraud claims or voting in favor of his impeachment.

Scott also bluntly declared that Biden won the presidency — a reality that some Republican leaders still refuse to acknowledge months later.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

When asked on CNN whether Trump should have a role in the future of the Republican Party, Cassidy called on GOP members to think about resonating with American people instead of “putting one person on a pedestal” in order to gain more seats in the next few years.

“Let me put it this way. We have got to win in two years, we have got to win in four years. If we do that, we will do that by speaking to those issues that are important to the American people,” Cassidy said.” And there’s a lot of issues important to them right now, not by putting one person on a pedestal and making that one person our focal point. If we do that, if we speak to those issues, to those families, to those individuals, we win. That’s where our focus should be.”

Pressed on whether the Republican Party can move forward without Trump, Cassidy — who voted to convict Trump earlier this month and was censured by the Louisiana Republican Party for doing so — stated that CPAC is “not the entirety of the Republican Party” and that the GOP needs to listen to voters to win in 2022 and 2024.

“We have to listen to the voters, not just those who really like President Trump, but also those who perhaps are less sure,” Cassidy said. “If we do, if we speak to the voters who are less sure who went from President Trump to President Biden, we win. If we don’t, we lose. That is a reality that we have to confront.”

Later in the interview, Cassidy argued that he does not think Trump will be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

“Over the last four years, we have lost the House, the Senate and the presidency. Political campaigns are about winning. Our agenda does not move forward unless we win,” Cassidy said. “We need a candidate who cannot only win himself or herself, but we also have to have someone who lifts all boats. And that’s clearly not happened over the last four years.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)

Kinzinger — one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last month, launched a PAC to challenge the GOP’s embrace of Trump, was censured by Republicans in his state and shunned by his family for bucking the former president — was asked on CBS whether he agrees with Trump’s prepared remarks that paint a rosy picture of a “united” Republican Party.

Kinzinger replied that the GOP is “certainly not united” on its path forward.

“We may be united in some areas — we don’t have to agree with everything the Biden administration is doing and so we’ll be opposition — but I think in terms of what is our vision for the future, certainly not united,” Kinzinger said. “I think we are a party that’s been, for too long, peddling in fear, using fear as a compelling way to get votes.”

Kinzinger took aim at Trump directly, saying that he expects the former president to praise himself during his CPAC speech.

“I think what you’re going to hear from the president at CPAC today is self-congratulations,” Kinzinger said. “No ability to recognize the fact that we have lost the House, the Senate and the presidency because of Donald Trump, and you’re going to see a lot of fear.”

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