Three scenes from yesterday that capture the state of Never Trumpism within the party. Scene one: The special election in Texas’s 6th District, where Marine veteran Michael Wood campaigned in a crowded field as a Trump critic, distinguishing him from the competition. Texas’s 6th includes some suburban areas and suburban areas weren’t kind to Trump last November. Could Wood’s unusual anti-MAGA iconoclasm give him a bit of surprise traction? Result:
“I’m glad Michael Wood ran, important to have people in the arena, and a lot of idiosyncrasies in this race,” Never Trumper Tim Miller tweeted afterward. “Even still the fact that the only ‘move on from trump’ Republican is at 3% in a jungle primary a few months after he inspired a siege of the capitol is pretty bleak.” Indeed.
Scene two: The complaints about Liz Cheney from the House GOP leadership amid her cold war with Kevin McCarthy are growing louder, with increasing talk of a new attempt to oust her from her position as chair of the House Republican Conference.
“It’s at a boiling point. This isn’t about Liz Cheney wanting to impeach Donald Trump; this isn’t about Donald Trump at all. It’s about Liz Cheney being completely out of synch with the majority of our conference,” said one GOP lawmaker, who said Cheney’s antics this week were the focus of a flurry of text messages with House colleagues.
“As we’re focused on unifying the Republican conference and our mission to win back the majority, she is focused on the past and proving a point,” the lawmaker told The Hill. “She is alienating herself from the conference, and I have to imagine if she doesn’t resign there will be a new vote in the near future and the result will be lopsided in the opposite direction of what it was before.”
“She may go down in a second vote,” added a second GOP lawmaker, who had voted in February to keep Cheney in her leadership post.
Some Republicans don’t need anonymity to predict Cheney’s imminent demise as a caucus leader:
Liz Cheney has promised she will campaign on impeaching Trump 'every day of the week.'
Good luck with that, Liz!
PREDICTION: she’ll be out of her GOP leadership role by month’s end!
— Lance Gooden (@Lancegooden) May 1, 2021
Jim Banks, head of the Republican Study Committee, echoed Gooden’s point in an interview with Axios yesterday, speculating that Cheney might be gone within a month. If so, that would be a harsher rebuke to her than if she had been toppled by the initial attempt to oust her three months ago. In that case, she would have been a martyr to Trump cultism. But if she goes down now after the caucus stood by her in February, it’ll be a statement that even sympathetic Republicans who refused to punish her for her impeachment vote think she’s become too consumed with building her anti-Trump “brand.”
Scene three: The Utah Republican convention, featuring guest speaker Mitt Romney.
“Aren’t you embarrassed?” said Romney trying to deflect the chorus of catcalls that greeted him as he took the stage.
“I’m a man who says what he means, and you know I was not a fan of our last president’s character issues,” said Romney as delegates attempted to shout him down. Accusations that Romney was a “traitor” or “communist” flew from the crowd like so many poison darts…
“You can boo all you like,” said Romney. “I’ve been a Republican all of my life. My dad was the governor of Michigan and I was the Republican nominee for president in 2012.”
Watch, then read on:
Romney was yesterday’s lone Never Trump semi-success story. A motion to censure him failed at the convention by a vote of 798-711. The optimistic view of that for Trump critics is that there’s still enough room in the party for someone who voted to impeach Trump twice to escape without a formal rebuke by his party. The pessimistic view is that the first Mormon major-party candidate for president, who was elected to the Senate by Utah with 63 percent of the vote three years ago, barely avoided censure. By dint of his name recognition, political pedigree, and unique historic significance in his home state, Romney may be the only Never Trump politician in the country who won’t pay a political price for opposing the former president.
And I stress “may.” Whether he’ll beat back a primary challenge in 2024 is an open question.
I’ll leave you with this clip of Susan Collins, who was “appalled” by the booing of Romney yesterday because, she said, the GOP is “not a party that is led by just one person.” Not only is that incorrect, it may be the case that no American political party has ever been as thoroughly dominated by a single person as the Republican Party currently is by Trump. Exit quotation from a Michigan GOP activist, explaining why she continues to believe that the election was stolen: “I think I speak for many people in that Trump has never actually been wrong…”
Republican Sen. Susan Collins says that she was “appalled” by the Utah GOP booing and attempting to censure Sen. Mitt Romney. “We are not a party that is led by just one person.” #CNNSOTU https://t.co/KE6cvsT64I pic.twitter.com/KPXkUgWhcX
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) May 2, 2021