“It’s not Trump so much they’re trying to hug. It’s Trump’s base they’re trying to hug,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist. “I think Trump’s departure left a huge vacuum. He was the one thing that united Republicans more than anything. I mean, the Republican Party became the Trump Party for four years. And without him leading it, there’s an obvious power vacuum, and I think you’re seeing that play out now in Congress.”
The question is whether Trump’s influence will endure. The internal divisions his team is fomenting could ultimately undermine the party’s quest to retake Congress. And it’s unclear whether he can transfer his personal popularity to other candidates when he’s not on the ballot. Republicans lost control of the House in 2018 and gave up the Senate this month despite a last-minute appeal from Trump.
Graham, who declared just this month that he’s done with Trump — “All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.” — has since stressed the importance of keeping the party together.
“I want to make sure that the Republican Party can grow and come back, and we’re going to need Trump and Trump needs us,” he told reporters.