Former President Donald Trump takes a seat in Mar-a-lago on Election Day, Tuesday, in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump is moving forward with his planned Tuesday announcement, pushing for a third presidential nomination. His decision comes as members of his party continue to blame him for an unexpectedly poor half-time performance. (Andrew Harnik, Associated Press)
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WASHINGTON – Republicans on Thursday ramped up their public criticism of former President Donald Trump, with some saying it was time for the party to move on after an unexpectedly poor showing in the midterm elections, even as he braced to make a third bid for next week to start the White House.
Virginia Republican Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, once a vocal Trump supporter, said voters on Tuesday sent “a very clear message” that “enough is enough.”
“Voters have spoken and said they want a different leader. And a true leader understands when they become a liability,” she said in an appearance on Fox Business. “A true leader understands it’s time to step off the stage. It is time to move on.”
Earle-Sears, who served as co-chair of a group called Black Americans to re-elect President Trump in 2020, also said she “just can’t” support another Trump campaign.
Some advisers had urged Trump to delay his planned announcement until after the Dec. 6 Senate runoff in Georgia, which could determine which party controls the Senate, to avoid the race turning into a referendum on him and the Democrats unintentionally helped. But Trump dismissed that advice and on Thursday invited reporters to a “special announcement” at his Mar-a-Lago club on Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. ET.
That leaves him trying to launch a comeback bid at a time when he’s in a position of extreme vulnerability, having largely dominated the party unchallenged since winning the nomination in 2016. Yet Trump has proven remarkably resilient and maintained base support, even through the Access Hollywood scandal that nearly sank his first campaign and the deadly storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“Good Quality Candidates”
At the same time, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who easily won re-election on Tuesday, is gaining renewed attention as Republicans openly weigh moving away from Trump.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, pointed to Trump’s role in backing some inexperienced and controversial candidates during the primary earlier this year who were lost in this week’s election.
In an interview, Thune said there was “no substitute for good candidates”.
“We’ve had some very competitive primaries this year,” Thune said. “And in some cases there were many forces at work, including outside people, supporting some of these races.”
Thune said he hopes the party will gradually see the rise of younger leaders.
“You can’t have a party built around a person’s personality,” he said.
“A drain on our ticket”
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who clashed with Trump in his first two years in office, called Trump “a burden on our ticket” that would hurt the party’s chances in 2024.
“We want to win the White House and we know that with Trump, we’re much more likely to lose,” he said in an interview with WISN 12 News. “If we have a candidate whose name isn’t Trump, we’re much more likely to win the White House than if our candidate is Trump.”
Retired Republican Senator from Pennsylvania Pat Toomey also blamed Trump’s intervention for GOP losses in his state, noting that Trump-backed candidates fared significantly worse than other Republicans in the vote.
“I think my party has to face the fact that if loyalty to Donald Trump is the main criterion for selecting candidates, we probably won’t do very well,” he said on CNN. “Across the country, there is a very high correlation between MAGA candidates and big losses, or at least dramatic underperformance.”
“Ugly Wins” and “Nice Losses”
Trump has denied he had a bad night.
“To the many people being fed the false narrative that I’m angry at the Midterms by the corrupt media, don’t believe it,” he said on his social media network. “I’m not angry at all, did a great job (I wasn’t the one running!) and very busy looking to the future. Remember, I’m a ‘stable genius’.”
There’s also a chance that more Trump-backed candidates will win their races. While the resounding victory predicted by Republicans did not materialize, the party still appears well-positioned to turn the House of Representatives around and could eventually win the Senate as well. Many races remain too early to announce them.
“There are no ugly wins or pretty losses,” said Jason Miller, a former Trump campaign aide who advised him to delay his planned announcement until after the Georgia runoff.
“Nancy Pelosi’s political career is over,” he predicted. “The Biden agenda is dead.”
“When He Runs”
Other Trump allies made statements to the media on behalf of the former president, endorsing him ahead of his upcoming announcement.
“I am proud to support Donald J. Trump for President in 2024. I fully support his re-election,” House GOP Chairwoman Elise Stefanik said in a statement. “It’s time for Republicans to unite around America’s most popular Republican with a proven track record of conservative governance.”
“If he runs in 2024, not only will he have my support, he will have the support of millions of Americans across the country,” said Rep. Jim Banks, a senior congressional ally.
Ohio Senate nominee JD Vance, who emerged as Trump’s most successful candidate, said if the former president decides to run again, he is confident he will be the party’s nominee.
“Every year the media writes the political obituary of Donald Trump. And each year we are quickly reminded that Trump remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party,” Vance said in a statement released after requests were made to Trump’s spokesman.
‘The right answer’
Trump’s decision to move forward now is driven in part by his desire to attempt to freeze the field and enlist support to try and halt the rise of DeSantis, whom he has long viewed as his most dangerous potential enemy.
In a show of his growing frustration, Trump released a long and angry statement Thursday night, berating Fox News and other Rupert Murdoch-controlled media outlets for going “all-in for Governor Ron DeSanctimonious DeSantis,” whom he described as “an average man.” REPUBLICAN governor called “great public relations” as he once again credited DeSantis’ victory in 2018.
While Trump allies had previously insisted that reports of tensions between the men were exaggerated, Trump did so publicly, who had privately criticized DeSantis for not ruling out a run against him.
“Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer,” he wrote, comparing the race to his 2016 winning campaign. “We’re in exactly the same position now. They will continue to haunt us, MAGA, but in the end we will win. Put America First and Make America Great Again!”
Contribution: Stephen Groves and Sarah Rankin