But while the party has maintained its steady, if uncomfortable, pattern of loyalty to Trump, the sheer number of ambitious politicians seeking to succeed Trump may leave little room for him in the party. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn have already proven, for instance, that they can grab headlines with their extreme views and actions without Trump. (And as with Trump, the media coverage is not overwhelmingly positive, and they have drawn some criticism from within their own party.) Of course, there is still a key difference between them and Trump in terms of power and influence: A group of representatives can make up a faction of a party, but only the president serves as the party’s mouthpiece.
There is another reason, though, to think that there might not be room for Trump in the Republican Party moving forward. Political science research has found that Republicans are actually quite successful in building a “farm team” in state and Congressional elections (compared to Democrats, who often struggle in this regard). This means that Republicans might not really struggle to find a replacement for Trump. It’s not hard to imagine, for instance, that there will one day be other ambitious Republicans — say, Sen. Josh Hawley or former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley — seeking higher office while claiming that they are the real heir to Trump’s legacy, even if they represent marked differences in style or approach. In fact, there are a number of signs that the party is already headed in this direction, trending away from more establishment GOP types and toward more Trump-style figures.
Yes, this speaks to Trump’s continued influence on the party, but it also doesn’t necessarily leave that much room for him. It’s hard for a former president to both represent an idea and be involved in the daily politics of the party.