Former President Donald Trump has not loosened his grip on the Republican Party, and many conservative operatives fear he's creating a "lost generation" of political talent in the party.
In interviews with Politico, unnamed GOP operatives say that many talented conservatives are staying out of electoral politics because they don't want to have to pledge total fealty to Trump to succeed inside the party.
"There is a lost generation of conservatives and I think it's because they're forced to tie themselves to Trump," one operative explains. "There was an anti-Romney backlash, anti-Bush backlash… When you lose the presidency — whether an incumbent or challenger — the party distances themselves and that is absolutely not the case here."
Dick Wadhams, a former Colorado Republican Party chair, tells Politico that it will be very difficult for the GOP to win back suburban areas if the party's focus is on falsely claiming that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
"We cannot win without the Trump supporters, and yet, if this continuing obsession with a stolen election and a fraudulent election continues, it will hurt us in our ability to attract some of those voters who abandoned Trump in 2020," he says.
GOP donor Dan Eberhart similarly warns that candidates who are trying to curry favor with the Trump base could wind up making themselves unelectable in general elections.
"We have 50 car pileup in the Pennsylvania and Ohio Senate Republican primaries with people trying to out-MAGA each other for an endorsement, and it could end up us losing the 2.5 points we need to win in the end," he says.