According to a report from Politico, the decision of popular Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) to not run for re-election in 2022 has Ohio Republicans -- as well as Republican Party campaign consultants -- fearing he may be a harbinger of things to come due to the outsized influence of Donald Trump.
Gonzalez's decision to step away came with the lawmaker pointedly calling the former president a "cancer" within the GOP and is all the more concerning because he likely would have won had he stayed in the race -- despite Trump's opposition.
Republican campaign consultants were hoping to use his re-election run as a test case to see how far Trump's influence extends over districts that are not solidly rightwing, but now that is gone and they worry his decision to bow out won't be the first as the 2022 election ramps up.
Regarding Gonzalez's decision to vote for Trump's second impeachment over the Capitol insurrection, Shannon Burns, the head of Ohio's Strongsville GOP stated the popular lawmaker, "... was an up-and-coming star, who made, I think, a terrible political calculation, and paid a price for it."
Colleague Liz Cheney (R-WY) -- also a target of Trump's ire over her impeachment vote -- said the loss of Gonzalez is a blow to the party's future.
"Anthony Gonzalez is one of … the most honorable public servants that I've ever known. And the idea that the Republican Party is going to drive people like him out tells you that the party is at a moment that is very perilous for us," she explained.
According to Politico's report, "in forgoing a bruising primary against a Trump-endorsed candidate, Gonzalez also deprived Trump — and the Republican Party at large — of what would have been one of the best test cases in the country of the full extent of the former president's dominion over the post-Trump GOP. Gonzalez, despite crossing Trump, was not dead in the water. He had been out-raising Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide endorsed by the former president. Miller has heavy baggage of his own. And with the primary not scheduled to take place until next year, at least some Ohio Republicans did not view the outcome as a foregone conclusion."
One campaign consultant, Ohio's Ryan Stubenrauch, said the departure of the lawmaker is a blow to the party in many ways.
"Every political consultant and candidate around the country is looking for a way to measure how much Trump's endorsement would matter in a Republican primary going forward," he lamented. "Who would've won a primary between a well-funded incumbent like Anthony Gonzalez and a Trump-backed candidate like Max Miller would have provided great data for that question."
Politico reports, "For some Republicans in a GOP now ruled over by Trump, it isn't worth the fight. Roughly half of the 241 Republicans in the House when Trump took office have or will have left the chamber by 2023 — and that percentage could grow if more GOP incumbents choose to retire this cycle," adding, "While some departed to join Trump's administration or seek higher office, roughly 90 have either retired or lost reelection. And there is every reason to believe that Republicans at odds with Trump's behavior after the election — most significantly his promotion of the lie that the 2020 election was stolen — will slowly be squeezed out."
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