But almost all of these newcomers have one thing in common: They hugged Trump. And for others in the party, this loyalty is a sign that a party is contracting, not expanding. The fear is that while Trump lingers on stage, aggressively engaging in internal party disputes, and openly flirting with running in 2024, it will only get more pronounced.
“There is a lost generation of Conservatives and I think that’s because they are forced to commit to Trump,” said a Republican agent. “There was an anti-Romney backlash, an anti-Bush backlash … If you lose the presidency – whether incumbent or challenger – the party distances itself and that is absolutely not the case here.”
Political parties have previously had concerns about talent drain. At the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, Democrats warned that the bank of aspiring MPs he left behind was painfully thin as the party suffered tremendous setbacks in Congress and in the statehouses. Trump also oversaw the loss of seats down. But unlike Obama, he did not resign from office after he left office. And its continued presence has raised concerns – mainly, but not exclusively – in the GOP diaspora that the party will be narrowed.
“If the conservative cause hangs on a personality’s populist appeal or second-rate imitation, then we’re not going anywhere,” said former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who left Washington for Wisconsin two years ago, on the show’s first night last week “Time for Choosing” at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. “Voters looking for Republican leaders want independence and courage. They won’t be impressed by the sight of yes men and flatterers heading to Mar-a-Lago.”
As a clear sign that Trump was listening, the ex-president responded the next day with a four-paragraph criticism. “Paul Ryan was a curse on the Republican Party,” said Trump. Ryan didn’t answer.
Ryan’s fear of Trump’s influence in the party is shared by top agents who believe that few up-and-coming presidential candidates will choose to run if Trump ultimately makes an offer. So far, the only potential contender for 2024 is former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who said he wouldn’t wait for the ex-president to make a decision first. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has flat out said she would submit to her former boss before deciding to flee.
As one close adviser coolly remarked, “You are all so scared [of] Maybe first? Or to say something that sounds like they are leaving the Trump years behind. “
At the congressional level, Trump’s influence on the composition of the party was evident in obvious and subtle ways. He helped remove Wyoming MP Liz Cheney from the ranks and drove numerous lawmakers directly or indirectly into retirement. As FiveThiryEight noted, “Of the 293 Republicans who served in the Senate or House of Representatives on January 20, 2017, the day Trump was inaugurated, 132 (45 percent) are no longer in Congress or have announced their resignation or resignation. ”