Donald Trump is the Republicans’ top plus successful mobilizing voters. But immoderate fret that his obsession with mendacious claims astir the 2020 predetermination could outgo the G.O.P. successful 2022.
Oct. 17, 2021, 4:35 p.m. ET
Republicans judge they person a bully changeable astatine taking Congress adjacent year. But there’s a catch.
The G.O.P.’s ambitions of ending unified Democratic power successful Washington successful 2022 are colliding with a sizeable unit that has the quality to sway tens of millions of votes: erstwhile President Donald J. Trump’s progressively vocal demands that members of his enactment stay successful a imperishable authorities of obedience, endorsing his mendacious claims of a stolen predetermination oregon risking his wrath.
In a bid of nationalist appearances and statements implicit the past week, Mr. Trump has signaled not lone that helium plans to enactment against Republicans helium deems disloyal, but besides that his meritless claims that wide elector fraud outgo him the White House successful 2020 volition beryllium his litmus test, going truthful acold arsenic to endanger that his voters volition beryllium retired aboriginal elections.
“If we don’t lick the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020,” Mr. Trump said successful a connection past week, “Republicans volition not beryllium voting successful ’22 oregon ’24. It’s the azygous astir important happening for Republicans to do.”
The erstwhile president’s fixation connected disproved conspiracy theories is frustrating to galore successful his enactment who spot it arsenic needlessly divisive astatine a clip erstwhile Republicans consciousness they are poised to instrumentality backmost the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate successful the 2022 midterm elections. They interest helium could outgo Republicans different winnable seats successful Congress and complicate the party’s much contiguous extremity of winning the governor’s contention successful Virginia adjacent month.
The interest implicit Mr. Trump’s attempts to marque each national elections a referendum connected him points to the larger statement among Republicans implicit what his relation should be, arsenic idiosyncratic who remains singularly fashionable with the party’s basal but is besides a liability with plaything voters and a motivator for Democrats to crook out.
Some rising stars successful the Republican Party — similar Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, who ousted Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from a House enactment station successful a bitter intraparty combat implicit the Jan. 6 riots and Mr. Trump’s attempts to downplay them — person been clear: They privation Mr. Trump to play a relation successful the 2022 midterms. Ms. Stefanik called him “an plus to Republicans connected the ballot” astatine a fund-raiser past week.
And apical enactment strategists said they expected the erstwhile president to stay beforehand and halfway successful the Republicans’ run to retake power of the House. “He’s the person of the party,” said Corry Bliss, a advisor to Republicans connected legislature races. “The much energized and engaged helium is, the amended we’ll do.”
But enactment officials judge Mr. Trump’s menace astir his supporters staying location en masse is real. And the potency of his mendacious claims astir 2020 caught adjacent immoderate of his staunchest allies successful the enactment disconnected guard.
The stakes are amplified by Mr. Trump’s progressively pointed hints that helium plans to beryllium the party’s nominee successful 2024.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has supported exhaustive audits of the 2020 results to look for grounds of voting irregularities that repeated reviews person failed to produce. Still, she has told colleagues that she was amazed by a caller survey of Republican voters successful her district, according to 1 idiosyncratic who spoke with her astir it.
The interior survey recovered that 5 percent of Republican voters said they would beryllium retired the 2022 predetermination if the authorities of Georgia did not behaviour a forensic audit of the 2020 predetermination — a request that immoderate of Mr. Trump’s hard-core supporters person made. Another 4 percent said they would see sitting retired the predetermination absent an audit.
The anticipation that astir 10 percent of Republicans could beryllium retired immoderate predetermination — adjacent 1 successful a solidly reddish territory similar the 1 held by Ms. Taylor Greene — was thing Republican strategists said they recovered alarming.
Since Mr. Trump near office, polls person repeatedly shown that ample majorities of Republican voters privation him to tally successful 2024. And astir 40 percent of Republicans accidental they see themselves to beryllium chiefly his supporters alternatively than supporters of the enactment — astir the aforesaid stock who said truthful past November, according to the governmental probe steadfast Echelon Insights.
Many Republicans don’t look to privation to perceive thing captious astir him. A caller canvass by the Pew Research Center, for instance, highlighted the deficiency of an appetite for overmuch dissent. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans, Pew found, said their enactment should not beryllium accepting of elected officials who knock Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump’s caller interference successful the Virginia contention — wherever polls amusement the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, narrowly trailing his Democratic rival, erstwhile Gov. Terry McAuliffe — disquieted advisers to Mr. Youngkin’s campaign. They watched arsenic their cautiously scripted program to support the contention focused connected their campaigner and connected claims that Democrats person veered excessively acold near became engulfed by quality sum of the erstwhile president praising Mr. Youngkin astatine a governmental rally past week.
Some Republicans said they feared they were watching a preview of the awkward and unpleasant dilemma their candidates would look for the foreseeable future, arsenic Mr. Trump remains the astir fashionable fig successful their party, determining what candidates accidental and however voters think.
“Here is wherever Trump is truthful destructive,” said Barbara Comstock, a erstwhile Republican subordinate of Congress who mislaid her spot successful suburban Virginia successful 2018. That year, voters successful plaything districts crossed the state turned against centrist incumbents similar her successful a repudiation of Mr. Trump.
Trump’s Bid to Subvert the Election
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“He doesn’t privation different radical to triumph without groveling to him. That’s the threat,” Ms. Comstock added. “It’s not astir winning. It’s each astir him. And that’s what’s truthful anserine astir Republicans adjacent trying to woody with him, due to the fact that you ne'er cognize erstwhile he’ll thrust the car disconnected the cliff.”
One of the astir acrophobic is Senator Mitch McConnell, the number leader.
Mr. McConnell has told colleagues that helium is acrophobic Mr. Trump’s run to relitigate the 2020 predetermination could depress assurance among Republican voters and wounded the party’s chances astatine winning backmost the bulk it mislaid this twelvemonth aft Democrats captured Georgia’s 2 Senate seats. Republican leaders warned Mr. Trump astatine the clip that by blaming fraud for his loss, helium would person galore of his supporters successful Georgia that their votes successful the Senate runoff predetermination connected Jan. 5 wouldn’t count, deterring them from participating.
Republican critics of Mr. Trump said that past was repeating itself. “Republicans should person learned this acquisition aft the Georgia debacle,” said Scott Reed, a seasoned enactment strategist who has worked to elite Republicans to the Senate for 3 decades.
Mr. Reed said that the erstwhile president’s comments astir Republicans not voting “should warrant a authorisation from the Republican National Committee.” He warned, “It volition interaction the 2022 midterms severely.”
The hostility betwixt Mr. McConnell and Mr. Trump has escalated lately, arsenic the erstwhile president has ratcheted up his attacks connected the number leader, accusing Mr. McConnell of “folding” to Democrats successful a caller statement to rise the nation’s indebtedness ceiling. He called for the leader’s ouster successful a recent interview with Fox News, saying, “Mitch is not the guy.” Mr. McConnell has sought to debar nonstop confrontation with the erstwhile president. When Mr. Trump spoke to a backstage gathering of Republican senators and lobbyists past week successful Palm Beach, Fla., Mr. McConnell did not attend.
Mr. Trump’s allies did not contradict that helium was contented to spot Republicans wage the eventual governmental terms for what helium and a important information of his voters saw arsenic disloyalty.
“President Trump is saying: ‘Hey, I’m putting you guys connected notice. My radical aren’t coming out,’” said Stephen K. Bannon, the erstwhile main White House strategist, who has been utilizing his podcast to further amplify Mr. Trump’s mendacious claims astir the 2020 election. “There could not beryllium a bigger changeable crossed the constitution bow.”
But the harder Mr. Trump’s allies propulsion their predetermination fraud claims, the harder it becomes to fulfill their astir hard-core followers. Even Ms. Taylor Greene, who is arsenic far-right and pro-Trump arsenic they travel successful the Republican Party, cannot look to ever delight the fringe. Lately, she has been feuding online with L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta lawyer who helped Mr. Trump sow doubts implicit his nonaccomplishment successful Georgia, implicit which of them genuinely represents the Trump movement. Mr. Wood has accused her of not doing capable to uncover instances of elector fraud. She has said that Mr. Wood is “not 1 of us.”
Such radicalization comes astatine a cost, said David Jolly, a erstwhile Republican congressman from Florida who is captious of the erstwhile president. At a clip erstwhile the larger governmental trends are pointing toward occupation for the Democratic Party successful 2022, helium said, Mr. Trump’s actions hazard interfering with what should beryllium a bully situation for Republicans.
“This should beryllium a 100 percent, straight-up referendum connected Biden,” Mr. Jolly said. “Instead, you person Trump the narcissist trying to inject himself into what should beryllium a glide way for Republicans to an incredibly palmy election, by making it each astir him.”