Who is the “big lie” to? Trump’s proclamation a new GOP litmus test
WASHINGTON (AP) – Donald Trump and his supporters are stepping up efforts to shame – and potentially fire – members of their party who are seen as disloyal to the former president and his false claims that last year’s election him were stolen.
On Capitol Hill, Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming, No. 3 Republican in the House, risks losing her leadership position amid her increasingly public row with Trump. In Utah, Senator Mitt Romney, a rare nemesis of Trump in the GOP, faced outrage over the weekend by reminding a booed crowd that he was once their presidential standard-bearer. And in Texas, the only openly anti-Trump Republican in a crowded special election for a Congressional seat finished a humble 9th.
Trump left office nearly four months ago with his reputation badly damaged after a mob of his supporters rioted deadly on the U.S. Capitol to prevent certification of election results. But recent developments suggest a revival of his political fortunes in which those who refuse to follow his lies find themselves on the defensive.
“It’s scary,” said Michael Wood, the Republican congressional candidate from Texas who based his campaign on a wish to push the GOP beyond the “personality cult” that is Trump. In the end, he only garnered 3% of the vote in Saturday’s special election, while two Trump supporters, including one he endorsed, will advance to a run-off.
Trump’s grip on the party can only tighten in the coming days.
In addition to its flurry of press releases, its powerful Facebook account could be re-established this week if a near-independent supervisory board votes in its favor. Meanwhile, Republicans in Virginia will decide whether to nominate a Trump supporter as governor in one of the few landmark elections on the calendar this year.
An important signal from the party leadership could come to Capitol Hill, where Cheney’s future is in question.
The Wyoming MP, the oldest Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment, insisted the party must reject the former president’s lie that the election was somehow stolen. another. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claims of massive electoral fraud, and numerous audits, Republican state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said the election is fair.
But Trump has stuck to his story and issued a “proclamation” on Monday attempting to reclaim the language his enemies use to mark his lies.
“The fraudulent presidential election of 2020 will, from this day forward, be known as THE BIG LIE!” he wrote.
Cheney, who hasn’t ruled out a race in 2024 herself, hit back.
“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims this is spreading THE BIG LIE is turning their backs on the rule of law and poisoning our democratic system, ”she tweeted.
Obviously, she has no intention of reducing her criticism, even if she risks losing her leadership position.
Cheney survived an earlier attempt to oust him from leadership, but it could be different this time around. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy stood by her side earlier this year, but refused to defend her against the latest round of attacks as he faces Tories reluctant to take her out. It’s a sign of McCarthy’s own calculations as he struggles to stay close to Trump while trying to spread a larger tent to help his party win the general election.
While pro-Trump Republican voices on Capitol Hill far outweigh criticism of his party, critics should not be sidelined.
In all, 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump for inspiring the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill, and seven Senate Republicans voted to convict. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump, but publicly berated the former president and privately urged the party to move on.
That’s a different calculation for grassroots members of Congress, especially those who represent heavily Republican regions, where about 8 in 10 supporters generally approve of Trump. Among party activists and grassroots voters, this number is believed to be much higher.
It is still too early to draw firm conclusions about Trump’s success so far this year. Some Republican strategists are privately suggesting that there are real signs that the former president’s strength with grassroots voters and elected officials has started to wane.
“It becomes less and less relevant with each passing day, but among those who still listen to it it is more relevant than ever,” said veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz. “It still matters. It will matter for months or even years, but over time it will matter less and less.
For now, the former reality TV celebrity seems to be enjoying the ride.
“So nice to see RINO Mitt Romney booed from the stage at the Utah Republican State Convention,” Trump sang in a series of celebratory statements Monday praising the Texas results and criticism of Cheney and Romney. “RINO” stands for “Republican in name only.”
In Utah over the weekend, a room full of Republicans rained boos at Romney before unsuccessfully trying to censor him for his support for Trump’s impeachment.
“Show respect,” chided the crowd by the state party chairman. Romney reminded them that he was a lifelong Conservative and their 2012 presidential candidate – and told them Republicans would only get hurt by attacking each other.
“If we divide our party, we will be a losing party,” he said.
In Texas, the loss of Congressman Wood, a 34-year-old former Marine and two-time Purple Heart recipient, sympathized with a handful of prominent anti-Trump Republicans, including Representative Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Former Arizona Sen Jeff Flake, former Ohio Governor John Kasich and Cheney, who donated to Wood’s campaign and offered moral support.
He said on Monday there was an urgent need for anti-Trump Republicans to unite against him.
“It can’t just be individuals pushing back. We have to organize and show the public that you can be a good Republican and not buy into all of this BS, ”Wood said. “This fight will not be won with podcasts and opinion pieces.”
Mike DuHaime, a top Republican strategist, said the party was still grappling with its identity after Trump, but argued it would be better positioned in the future if it included conservatives like Cheney and Romney.
“There are people who play at the base of the electorate, who are very passionate and believe in the big lie about the election. And you just have to win a primary for Congress or the Senate or the Governor, or even the President, it seems. But, he warned, “If we stay focused on just that, it won’t be successful enough in the general election to win back the majority.”
“We have to put that behind us at some point if we are to be successful in a general election.”
People reported from New York. Associated Press editor Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.