As Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) makes the rounds of the cable news shows to hawk his book, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that he’s among the minority of Republican lawmakers fearless in attacking President Donald Trump. The rest aren’t likely to speak ill of Trump, much less support an impeachment effort.
During a conversation with former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, an anonymous Republican revealed Tuesday that the vast majority of Republicans in Congress think that Trump is losing his mind.
“Trump is fritzing out. Having manic delusions. He’s actually going nuts… it’s downright dangerous,” the member said.
Yet, no one other than Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ) or Flake have been brave enough to step up in opposition. An analysis in The Washington Post Wednesday explained that Republicans risk losing in primary elections in 2018 if they come out against Trump.
They did two experiments to chart this: one dealt with the firing of former FBI Director James Comey while another was about the meeting with Russian officials in which Trump revealed classified intelligence. They surveyed active and engaged Republicans, which they split into two groups. They were all told about Trump’s actions and justifications for it and split into a group that was told the GOP leadership agreed with Trump’s justification. The second group was told the leadership condemned Trump.
What they found was that Republicans were more willing to disapprove of Trump if the GOP lawmakers attacked his actions. However, when the group was told that Trump attacked the congressional leaders, their support for the GOP lawmakers dropped.
The important piece is that when both groups were told the GOP leadership supported Trump they were more likely to support the party leaders. When they were told the leaders disagreed with Trump, agreement with the party leaders dropped.
The Post revealed that voters aren’t going to leave the GOP because of a battle between GOP leaders and Trump. However, those who said they were loyal to their Republican senator in the primary dropped from 88 percent to 77 percent if the senator came out against Trump. Those supporters of Trump said they were less likely to support a GOP candidate in the primary if they rebuked the president. If they were lukewarm on Trump it didn’t influence their vote in the primary. Those who gave Trump an 80 out of 100 on their strength of support for Trump saw backing for their senator drop from 97 percent to 75 percent if that leader criticized the president — a 22 percent drop.
Trump’s approval ratings have dropped to historic lows in the mid 30’s, but The Post tested whether GOP attacks would drop the approval lower and they found it didn’t.
The base of the GOP is so far in with Trump that any attack on Trump will not only be irrelevent to Trump’s strength with the GOP — it would hurt those Republican leaders who attack him. For those Republicans like Dean Heller, who walked away from Trumpcare negotiations, Trump’s Super PAC took it even further and came after him with ads in his state. While The Post didn’t test the impact of Trump ads against a senator, it would likely be effective if that leader has a viable primary opponent.