President Donald Trump stepped in it again Wednesday when he defended monuments to former leaders in the failed Confederacy. Yet, fellow Republicans aren’t lining up to denounce it, or in Sen. Susan Collins’ (R-ME) case, furrow her brow at it. Instead, they’re ignoring the questions and the press and pretending they didn’t hear the question.
Writing for the Washington Post, reporter Bob Costa and Phil Rucker explained that these controversial positions have left Trump “politically isolated and profoundly weakened” with just five months left before the November election.
Recent poll numbers are showing not a mere loss for Trump, but an outright bloodbath of defeat. While Trump has tried to attack protesters demanding an end to police brutality, his followers aren’t following and large corporations are openly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Meanwhile, few Trump allies have been willing to embrace some of the president’s more extreme views, such as his baseless suggestion on Tuesday that a 75-year-old man seen in a viral video last week bleeding from the ear after being shoved by police in Buffalo was a radical provocateur faking his injury,” said the Post.
They noted that some Republicans have been brave enough to stand out, like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who marched with BLM in the shadow of Trump’s White House over the weekend. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) questioned whether she’d even vote for the president.
“But there is no sign yet of a mass exodus from the runaway Trump train,” the report said. “If anything, most elected Republicans see themselves as prisoners onboard, calculating that jumping off would lead to almost certain defeat, according to interviews with more than a dozen party strategists, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.”
Instead, Republicans have reached the “acceptance phase of grieving” for the loss of their political reign. “There is an understanding that he’s president until at least November, and there is not much we can do about it,” the Post said quoting a veteran operative.
Most Republicans are counting on Trump getting his supporters out to support them as well.
“There’s no middle ground to run to anymore,” the Post quoted Brendan Buck, a former top adviser to two GOP House speakers. “I continue to believe that there’s really no political upside to running away from [Trump]. You gain nothing and you raise the ire of not just the president but people who support him.”
For Republicans stuck in tough spots, they’re looking for ways to hide from Trump and lay low. It puts them in an awkward position because if they come out against Trump, he’ll take them down out of anger. If they support him, they’ll lose independent voters.
The Post said that strategists have suggested members can dance around the issue, but with three years of Trump leadership and a series of tweets and supportive videos singing Trump’s praises, it might not be convincing.
“It’s subtle stuff, like maybe your senator should try to duck Kasie Hunt in the hallway,” said a strategists, talking about GOP members dodging reporters’ questions about using military force against protesters. “It’s all about operating outside of the tumult of the moment with him, but leaving yourself in a position for him to rally for you this fall.”
“Look — no one can afford at this point to get on the wrong side of Trump. But you can kind of play it cool and don’t have to comment on everything he does,” the operative also said.
GOP pollster Frank Luntz described Trump as “isolated” by the language he’s using.
“He’s talking about ‘law and order.’ The last time I heard that was the 1968 campaign. His rhetoric is 50 years old. The world has changed. … He’s got 40 percent of the country completely enthralled with him.” But, Luntz added, “This is not a lexicon that gets you elected. This is a lexicon that gets you to 45 percent and not more.”
Trump’s campaign is now threatening to sue CNN for doing a poll that the president doesn’t like.
Meanwhile, White House staff are telling Republicans to stay calm, according to the Post.