If the president plays the role of loyal soldier and maintains the party’s volatile establishment-populist coalition, he will be well-positioned to maintain his influence in a post-presidency. But if he costs the party two winnable races in a traditionally Republican state—and control of the Senate, to boot—the political price of indulging him will be too high for party leaders to stomach. It’s in Trump’s best interest to play the long game, but that goes against his instincts.
Consider: If Trump declares war against Republican officials, he’d end up being the Democrats’ biggest asset in 2022. He’s slamming Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for certifying the state’s election results. Ducey is term-limited but may run for Senate in 2022. If the president eggs on a right-wing candidate to victory over Ducey in a Senate primary, there’s a strong chance that incoming Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly will win a full six-year term. And if Kemp is ousted by a Trumpier figure in a primary, Trump would be paving a path for progressive favorite Stacey Abrams to become Georgia’s next governor. Is it worth winning the Republican civil war, only to hand Democrats high-profile victories in swing states with his nihilistic message?
Indeed, it was just three years ago when Trump adviser Steve Bannon threatened to primary nearly every sitting Republican senator for being uncommitted enough to the Trumpian cause. Bannon’s own undisciplined tactics ended up getting himself kicked out of the White House. Without the benefit of capable political advisers around, Trump could end up facing a similar backlash after he leaves office.