Trump faces questions about whether he will coach the Republican Party after his indictments

Donald Trump’s hold on Republican loyalists was evident from the moment he left the Miami federal courthouse last week.

Just becoming the first former president to face criminal charges from the government he once oversaw, Trump’s motorcade passed through a crowd of hundreds of mostly adoring fans. He met more supporters at a Cuban restaurant in Little Havana, a Miami neighborhood that, like much of South Florida, has turned to Republicans in recent years.

A federal indictment for mishandling the country’s most sensitive national security secrets would doom any other White House hope. But Trump’s reception in Miami – and the more than $7 million he raised after the indictment – served as a reminder of the central tension running through the Republican Party as the 2024 presidential primary begins.

So far, no one is coming close to Trump in his command of the voters who will decide the GOP nominee next year. But Trump’s path beyond the primary is far more perilous as he faces big and growing questions about his ability to appeal to a broader, more moderate set of voters in a possible general election showdown against President Joe Biden. If Trump fails, he risks not only losing the White House contest, but also dragging other Republican candidates down the ballot as the party aims to retake the U.S. Senate and retain the House.

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is among those warning Republicans that what’s popular in a primary may not win the general election. The frequent Trump critic backed a moderate Republican to succeed him in last year’s gubernatorial race. But Trump’s favorite candidate won the primary and was soundly defeated in the general election, a result that played out in key races across the country.

“We’ve had three losing cycles in a row,” Hogan said. “It’s hard enough to lose the White House, but we did it. It’s hard enough to lose the House, the Senate and the White House, but we did it too. And in the last election, when we should have won back the Senate, picked up gubernatorial seats and picked up 50 House seats… The Republicans haven’t really made any gains.

Trump is not the only GOP candidate facing such concerns. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ national eligibility has been questioned after he signed into law a state ban on abortions performed after six weeks, delighting conservatives but leaving him as an outlier among broader voters. While many Americans support some restrictions on abortion, especially after the first trimester, many disagree with the more extreme measures imposed in Republican-led states like Florida, according to a poll that has also showed that most Americans support a federal law allowing access to abortion. at national scale.

DeSantis also alienated some Republicans when he appeared to dismiss Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” he later commented he had to backtrack.

No one in the race, however, carries the same level of baggage as Trump, especially after the latest indictment, which follows accusations in New York of paying the porn actor silent money. Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair. He is unlikely to attract new support after the allegations in Florida, which center on allegations that he took and refused to return boxes of classified documents, including some that could endanger the military and other sources if disclosed.

The hesitation over the future of the GOP began long before Trump’s latest indictment.

In announcing her presidential campaign in February, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, was blunt in addressing the party’s general election challenge.

“We have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections,” she said. “Our cause is just, but we have failed to win the trust of a majority of Americans.”

Since Trump’s federal indictment in Miami, some of his rivals have begun testing how far they can go to criticize him, positioning themselves in ways that could be helpful in a general election, but also tempering their remarks. by accusing the Ministry of Justice of having brought charges.

Although Trump’s rivals may not be ready to confront him fully, the party establishment is increasingly trying to prevent his cronies from being named in the ballot box races or to encourage hopefuls to change the subject of his loser posts from the past.

The Republican National Committee, for example, conducted a review of recent GOP performance. A draft report, which did not mention Trump by name, concluded that the party must go beyond ‘questioning the previous election’, an apparent allusion to the relentless but debunked claims that he had won the race. 2020 presidential.

The Republican National Senate Committee, the GOP’s campaign arm of the Senate, also said it was changing tack after opting out of last year’s primary election and letting voters decide the nominees. After failing to regain control of the Senate, the organization now says it will play in the primaries if necessary, providing money and other resources to candidates it believes have the best chance of winning elections. general.

The organization has already received some news it was hoping for when Doug Mastriano, a far-right lawmaker from Pennsylvania who was endorsed by Trump last year and lost heavily to the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, chose not to stand up. run for the Senate in 2024. Republicans are hoping former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who lost last year’s primary to another Trump-backed candidate, will run again and face off against the Democratic Senator Bob Casey.

Trump, who has falsely called the charges against him a political prosecution, insists he has redefined the GOP, saying earlier this year that “the old Republican Party is gone and will never come back.” The former president and his supporters point to his 2016 win as proof of his ability to win, noting he won Ohio and Florida when GOP candidates in 2012 and 2008 couldn’t and was the first Republican presidential candidate to win Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in decades.

“We have forever revolutionized the electoral map for Republicans,” Trump said. “We paved the way to victory.”

This argument ignores the fact that Trump lost all three states in 2020 and that all three Democratic governors were elected in 2018 and again last fall. In all three states, Trump-endorsed candidates lost.

Republican losses in competitive races like these are a big part of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s speech to voters about why it’s time for Trump to go. Christie, who is also running for the GOP nomination for president, noted during a recent appearance on Fox News Channel that even before the latest charges, the party under Trump was struggling in those contests.

“We’re tired of losing,” Christie said. “And look, if the person at the top gets all the credit when things go well, they also have to be responsible for what happens when things go wrong.”

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