Republicans are coalescing around former president Donald Trump as their 2024 candidate only a few months after many of them condemned his actions on 6 January.
Last week, Mr Trump ranted about the election results and rehashed old grudges at a retreat for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Grand Old Party’s main campaign arm for electing Republican challengers and defending incumbent Senators. Similarly, Mr Trump will also headline the fall dinner for the NRSC’s counterpart for the House, the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“Republican voters are by and large supportive of Trump running for president again and are largely supportive of him,” Ron Bonjean, Republican partner at Rokk Solutions who helped shepherd Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation during the Trump administration, told The Independent. “If Republican elected officials are hearing from their constituents that they prefer Donald Trump to run for president, then the natural gravitation is to what their constituents want.”
Republicans displayed their unified support for Mr Trump during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa earlier this month.
Iowa’s Republican Gov Kim Reynolds, the state’s party chairman Jeff Kaufmann, Reps Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson and Sen Chuck Grassley all joined to support the former president
“I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born last night,” Mr Grassley, who is seeking an eighth term in 2022, said after being invited on stage by Trump. “If I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart.”
“Grassley’s clearly seeing the landscape,” Mr Bonjean said.
This came after Mr Grassley said in February that just because he did not vote to convict Mr Trump during the impeachment, that his “vote in this impeachment does nothing to excuse or justify those actions.”
“There have been a lot more agreements than there have been disagreements,” Jason Miller, who advised Mr Trump’s campaigns, insisted to The Independent. “He was there when it truly matters.”
And Mr Grassley is not the only Republican to have changed his tune.
Ms Hinson, a freshman Republican, said in January that Mr Trump “bears responsibility and that is why I urged him personally to call off those who were violently storming the Capitol”.
But in Des Moines, Ms Hinson effusively praised the former president.
“Let me tell you, working in Congress under a Speaker Pelosi-led Congress and President Biden’s administration, boy am I glad to have President Trump coming back to Iowa,” she said.
Indeed, a steady stream of lawmakers have come forward in recent months to back Trump.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, Rep. Jason Smith, a Missouri Republican weighing a Senate bid and Rep. Jeff Van Drew in the swing state of New Jersey all recently told CNN they supported such a move.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress told The Independent they’d support another run.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas said it was a “stupid question” whether he would support the former president.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said she would “absolutely” support Mr Trump, “because most everyone supports President Trump.”
“He’s the greatest president we’ve had. I always support him,” she told The Independent. “Always have, always will.”
Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado said she also would.
“President Trump is the one president that has stood for truth and is actually effectively, certainly in my lifetime, the most effective president,” she told The Independent.
Even those who won’t go on the record for Trump, won’t go on the record against him.
Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas voted against impeachment but added, “I strongly condemn the president’s rhetoric and his behaviour.”
But Mr McCaul was cagey when asked about it in October.
“You know, it’s so far away, let’s see who the nominee is,” he told The Independent. “ I always support the nominee, but again, it’s so far off.”
Similarly, Rep. Beth Van Duyne of Texas, who hails from a district that voted for Mr Biden, gave a noncommittal answer.
“A lot of folks are looking to run in 2024,” she told The Independent. “I think we need to find out who’s going to be running.”
And you can see why.
Polling shows that Mr Trump is still incredibly popular with GOP voters. A Morning Consult/Politico poll earlier this month found that 67 per cent of Republicans want Mr Trump to run again in 2024. Another poll from Quinnipiac University showed that 78 percent of Republicans think Trump should run for president in 2024.
Mr Miller told The Independent that Republicans are supporting Mr Trump because of his unique appeal to voters who otherwise wouldn’t be part of the Republican coalition.
“It’s been proven already that Trump voters only show up to vote for President Trump, hence their name, Trump voters,” he said. “In 2020, we saw President Trump receive record numbers of votes from African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and this gives Republican candidates across the board a much better chance of winning their own races.”
The question remains over whether Trump is buoyed enough by this recent support to do so.
During his rally in Des Moines, he teased out a new version of his slogan “Make America Great Again.”
“It was supposed to be ‘Keep America Great,’ but America’s not great right now, so we’re using the same slogan: Make America Great Again,” he said. “And we may even add to it but we’ll keep it: “Make America Great Again, Again.”
Similarly, in June, he told Newsmax that he would “be making an announcement in the not too distant future”.
At the same time, 2024 is still three years away and it is possible another candidate could emerge. Similarly, a new poll showed Mr Biden and Mr Trump are neck and neck in a 2024 rematch. Grover Cleveland is the only president to have served non-consecutive terms.
But Mr Trump still holds a tight grip on the GOP.
“He has presented himself with a number of options: one is to campaign and appear to be running for president, and if he chooses not to, he can decide that but it looks like he’s getting everything ready to go for a run,” Mr Bonjean said.
Regardless of what this means for 2024 there are some warning signs of what a Trump run for second term would mean for the party.
He could hamper younger names, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has long been seen as a potential Republican challenger to President Joe Biden in 2024.
“I think other Republicans who are thinking about running for president in 2024 are very concerned that Trump may run for president because ... at this point, he would absolutely swamp out the rest of the field,” Mr Bonjean added.
The former president’s outsized presence comes as Republicans seek to retake the House and Senate in the midterm elections in 2022. Republicans only need to win eight seats to win the House and only need to gain one Senate seat to break the evenly-split Senate their way.
And Mr Trump has said things that could stymie GOP turnout in that election.
“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020, Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
But those concerns may not be enough to slow Trump momentum, according to Robert Graham, the former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party. “The people who understand the value of voting will not sit this one out,” he said.
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