So far, Crenshaw has managed to earn praise from both Republican Trump loyalists and skeptics in Washington. Andrew Surabian, a former Trump White House official who worked under Steve Bannon, says of Crenshaw: “While he has some views that are different from the president, he has put himself in a position where he is still an ally to the administration on the whole.” Liz Mair, a NeverTrump Republican consultant, says politicians who share Crenshaw’s ideology “struggle to get traction a lot of the time because they just seem like boring, mainstream, conservative Republican dudes,” but Crenshaw “could become a much bigger player in the party if he chooses to.”
As his experience on the national emergency shows, however, it’s not easy taking a middle-ground approach to Trump. The president will surely present Crenshaw with more opportunities to alienate Trump supporters or opponents. And it remains to be seen whether Crenshaw can navigate his first two years in office without turning off voters who backed both him and Beto O’Rourke, Ted Cruz’s Democratic Senate opponent, in 2018.
But the Trump-skeptical conservatives left in the Republican Party don’t seem to have written off Crenshaw because of his support for the emergency declaration. Ben Shapiro, who supports rescinding the emergency, wrote in a text message: “There’s a legitimate difference of opinion on the issue.” At CPAC, Jacob Foster, who also opposed the emergency declaration, told me he thinks Crenshaw was representing his constituents and wouldn’t set such a “dangerous precedent” if he were president.