House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy visited Trump in Florida to seek his favor, showing how the party is still beholden to him
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy visited former president Trump in Florida Thursday.
- The trip shows the power Trump still has over the party.
- Republicans like McCarthy are returning swiftly to Trump after briefly condemning him.
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In the wake of the deadly Capitol riots, it seemed Trump’s brand was toxic.
Even usually staunchly loyal Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said that Trump bore responsibility for the violence. 10 Republicans, though not McCarthy, voted with Democrats to make Trump the only president impeached twice.
Three weeks later, it’s a very different story.
In a tacit acknowledgement that Trump retains his status as GOP kingmaker, McCarthy visited Trump in his post-presidency home in Florida, Mar-a-Lago Thursday.
According to a statement from McCarthy’s office, the two discussed how the Republican party can win back Congress in 2022.
Trump’s new Save America PAC boasted after the meeting that “President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time.”
Trump had vented to aides about McCarthy’s disloyalty in blaming him for the riot, Reuters reported.
This prompted McCarthy earlier in the week to reverse his claim that Trump bore responsibility, telling reporters Monday that he didn’t believe the president provoked the riot in a speech he gave to supporters before violence erupted.
McCarthy shifted his stance to say that “everyone across the country” was responsible.
He’s not the only senior Republican whose tone has changed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell initially blamed Trump, and signaled that he was open to convicting him in an impeachment trial. He was reportedly determined to rid the party of Trump’s influence.
But on Wednesday, McConnell voted with GOP colleagues in the Senate to throw out the House’s impeachment of the Trump. The move failed, since Democrats had enough votes to override it, and five GOP senators also voted to have the trial.
The prospect of Trump’s conviction in an impeachment trial, which could be followed by another vote to bar him from future public office, looks increasingly remote.
The abrupt shift in gears comes with polls showing the hold Trump still has over the party’s grassroots.
According to a poll by Morning Consult this week, Trump’s popularity has bounced back among Republicans after the riots.
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Of the Republican voters polled between January 23 and 25, 81% said they held a favorable view of the former president, a rise from a 76% low in mid-January, while 75% said they disapproved of his impeachment.
Trump has dangled the prospect of starting a third party, called the Patriot Party, that could split the GOP vote and leave the task of winning back Congress in the mid-terms all but impossible. It’s likely another factor in the thinking of GOP leaders.
Speaking on NBC, former GOP Congressman Carlos Curbelo Sunday spelt out the dilemma facing the party.
“You have the Trump wing of the party, wanting to purge those who have stood up to the president’s lies, (and) you have the establishment wing of the party wanting to purge the party of Trump,” he said. “Right now, it’s clear that the Trump wing is dominant.”
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