How ‘Trump’s ghost’ is haunting the GOP

Almost a month after events of 6 January, Republican Party remains immobilised by Trump's false claims that election was stolen from him

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 04 February 2021 16:51 GMT
John Heilemann says Marjorie Taylor Greene 'saved herself by hugging Donald Trump'

The vast majority of House Republicans refuse to denounce Donald Trump's false claim that November's presidential election was stolen – an indication of how much the 'ghost' of the former president is haunting the party.

A survey from Reuters shows that 133 of the 147 lawmakers who voted against certifying President Joe Biden's electoral college win on 6 January still back, or will not reject, Mr Trump's continued insistence that he was robbed of a second term.

This huge majority will not take a stand either way as they tiptoe between the diehard Trump supporters whose votes they need in a primary, and the moderates and independents disgusted by Mr Trump's claims of fraud whose support they need to win a general election against a Democratic opponent in their district or state.

And as MSNBC's National Affairs Analyst John Heilemann put it, it reveals just how much Mr Trump looms large in their thinking.

"There's still fear among all the House Republicans of Donald Trump's ghost," Mr Heilemann said, adding that many Republicans believe that they need to stay on the former president's good side to avoid having him endorse a primary challenge on their right that would give them a host of political problems.

"It's craven, it's absurd, it's focused more on their own political interests, not in the party's interest," Mr Heilemann continued.

A poll administered between 22 and 25 January showed that 81 per cent of Republican voters still have a favourable view of Mr Trump, while less than 20 per cent said they supported a conviction in his second Senate impeachment trial, and 56 per cent thought he should run again in 2024.

It's against that backdrop that the party struggles to shake Mr Trump's power over their future. Almost a month after the events of 6 January, the Republican Party remains immobilised by Mr Trump's false claims that the election was stolen from him.

Republican strategist Alex Conant told Reuters that the lawmakers who voted to support the stolen-election narrative did so because they were afraid of their base, the vast majority of whom still strongly support Mr Trump. But elected officials in swing districts or Senators in statewide races could be in jeopardy because of their votes.

Mr Conant said: “Any race where independents are a factor, this becomes very awkward ... senators are much more hesitant to go down the path of election fraud for that reason.”

Of the Republican lawmakers, 43 of the 147 hail from districts or states where they won by fewer than 20 points, 20 of those officeholders won by fewer than 10 points.

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