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Trump and His Cornfield Still Haunt the GOP

November 10, 2021 12:07 p.m.

You’ve probably seen reports that House Republicans are now considering stripping committee assignments from the 13 Republican members who voted for the bipartisan Biden infrastructure bill. It’s the latest DC GOP purity test. In a speech Monday at a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner ex-President Trump ripped into the 13 as traitors to the GOP and to him. One of them, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis – the sole Republican from New York City – was there in the crowd appearing “visibly shaken,” according to a source who spoke to The New York Post. It is another reminder that while Republicans have numerous advantages going into 2022, managing the GOP is inherently difficult with ex-President Trump’s ever-changing list of Republicans he wants to wish to the cornfield because they weren’t nice to him.

I find it hard to believe the GOP House conference will strip these members of their committee assignments. They didn’t do that for the even greater betrayal of those members who voted to investigate the January 6th insurrection. But as we’ve seen, a substantial number of those members have already been forced into retirement. You can’t cross Trump in today’s GOP. You can make vague comments. You can sigh a few times. But you can’t cross him. There are very, very few examples of any who have and still have any future in the party.

These are each key tension points that Democrats should be hitting over and over and over during the next twelve months.

Glenn Youngkin’s narrow victory in Virginia had many roots. A critical one, as I’ve noted repeatedly, is that the out party at the presidential level almost always wins the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races. But clearly Youngkin’s ability to not only hold but supercharge the Trump base while also keeping his distance from Trump was the sine qua non factor propelling him to victory. That’s not easy. And we shouldn’t underestimate the prowess of Youngkin and his campaign in pulling it off. But it’s even harder when you’re operating at the federal level. Youngkin didn’t have to make votes on infrastructure or January 6th committees. All these folks do. The key to Republican victory in 2022 is supercharged support from the MAGA base combined with the more passive disenchantment of a slice of the electorate that is downcast over the economy and COVID and not really thinking about Trump even if they don’t like him. The key for Democrats is to make it as hard as possible to straddle that divide.

Trump will give them countless opportunities.

The infrastructure bill is a cudgel that can be used in various ways against House Republicans who voted against it (think Rep. Young Kim in California) and those who voted for (think Rep. Malliotakis in New York).

There’s a precedent for this. Actually there are tons of them. But there’s one that is particularly apt. Republicans stormed back into power in the 2010 midterm. But it took them until 2014 to recapture the Senate. There are a bunch of reasons. But the big one is that in 2010 and to a lesser but still real degree in 2012 they kept nominating nutball candidates. Harry Reid won his last term in the Senate in large part because his campaign helped the GOP along in ditching a more palatable candidate for Tea Party yahoo Sharron Angle, who Reid defeated. Gov. Sununu’s decision not to run – which seems to have caught Republicans completely off guard – appears to be part of a pattern in which top tier GOP recruits are proving hard to convince, in part because being a Trump toady in a party-line vote Senate just doesn’t seem like much fun.

Much remains outside Democrats control. But this isn’t one of them. Democrats – certainly everyone with any responsibility for campaigns – needs to spend the next twelve months working over, irritating, inflaming these fissures.

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