Trump under fire from within G.O.P. after midterms

November 11, 2022

Former President Donald Trump faced unusual public attacks from across the Republican Party on Wednesday, November 9, after a string of midterm losses by candidates he had handpicked and supported—a display of weakness as he prepared to announce a third presidential campaign as soon as next week, reports The New York Times.

As the sheer number of missed Republican opportunities sank in, the rush to openly blame Trump was as immediate as it was surprising.

Conservative allies criticized Mr. Trump on social media and cable news, questioning whether he should continue as the party’s leader and pointing to his toxic political brand as the common thread woven through three consecutive lackluster election cycles.

Trump was seen as largely to blame for the Republicans’ underwhelming finish in Tuesday’s elections, as a number of the candidates he had endorsed in competitive races were defeated—including nominees for governor and Senate in Pennsylvania; and for governor of Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin.

“Republicans have followed Donald Trump off the side of a cliff,” David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser with ties to Pennsylvania, said in an interview.

Former Representative Peter King, a Republican from Long Island who has long supported Trump, said, “I strongly believe he should no longer be the face of the Republican Party,” adding that the party “can’t become a personality cult.”

The chorus of criticism, which unfolded on Fox News and social media throughout the day, revealed Trump to be at his most vulnerable point politically since the aftermath of the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Still, Trump has built a deep well of loyalty with Republican voters—and party officials cautioned that it was too soon to tell whether he would suffer any lasting political damage beyond a flurry of bad headlines, or whether a rival will emerge to challenge him.

“I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2024,” Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, said in a statement. “It is time for Republicans to unite around the most popular Republican in America who has a proven track record of conservative governance.”

Senator-elect J.D. Vance, Republican from Ohio and an early choice of Trump, said he believed Trump would be the nominee if he runs. “Every year, the media writes Donald Trump’s political obituary. And every year, we’re quickly reminded that Trump remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party,” he said.

Publicly, Mr. Trump put the best face on the results, pointing to dozens of wins for his endorsed candidates in less competitive races. In an interview on Wednesday with Fox News, he pointed to Vance, who delivered a convincing victory; and to Herschel Walker, the former football star, who will face Senator Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff.

“We had tremendous success — why would anything change?” Trump said when asked whether he would delay his announcement.

But at his home in Florida, the Times reports, Trump was privately spreading blame, including to Sean Hannity and the casino mogul Steve Wynn, for his endorsement of Mehmet Oz, the defeated Pennsylvania Senate candidate. He included his wife, Melania, among those he complained had offered poor advice, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

Among Republican operatives who have been open to working with another Trump presidential campaign, a handful said they were reconsidering. That could present a challenge for Trump, who has a handful of trusted advisers but almost no one yet staffing key aspects of a campaign-in-waiting.

Kayleigh McEnany, a former Trump White House press secretary and one of his longtime defenders, said on Fox News on Wednesday that her former boss should hold off on an announcement, at least until after the runoff election for Senate in Georgia.

“He needs to put it on pause, absolutely,” McEnany said. “If I’m advising any contender, no one announces 2024 until we get through December 6. [the date of the Georgia runoff election].”

Trump, however, has been teasing rally crowds for weeks with hints of another presidential bid—one that was meant to capitalize on the momentum gained by what he repeatedly predicted would be a towering Republican victory in Tuesday’s elections.

That would allow him to claim credit for endorsing the winners, holding dozens of rallies to showcase them and, in a new spirit of benevolence, spending millions of dollars from his campaign treasury on advertisements to support them.

Instead, the party fared far more poorly than it had expected, although it remains within reach of control of one or both houses of Congress.

“Almost every one of these Trump-endorsed candidates that you see in competitive states has lost,” Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, said Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It’s a huge loss for Trump. And, again, it shows that his political instincts are not about the party, they’re not about the country — they’re about him.”

Adding to Trump’s long night on Tuesday, one of the few Republican bright spots in the midterms came in Florida, where Ron DeSantis—widely viewed as the leading alternative to Trump in 2024 — won re-election with the widest margin of any Republican in the 24 years the party has controlled the governor’s office in Tallahassee.

The New York Post, one of Trump’s favorite publications, devoted its cover on Wednesday to an election-night photo of the 44-year-old governor celebrating with his young family. The tabloid’s headline, “DeFuture,” turned his family name into a compliment—just four days after Trump dismissed DeSantis as “DeSanctimonious” at a rally.

Research contact: @nytimes