Republicans’ Gamble: McCarthy’s Decline Mirrors Trump’s Ascendancy

Reimagining House GOP Leadership and Trump’s Influence

Reimagining House GOP Leadership and Trump’s Influence

The GOP’s Shift to the Right

When House Republicans elect a new speaker this week, the only question is not whether, but how far, they will move the party to the right. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, the two announced candidates, represent different strains of modern conservatism, with Jordan more unreservedly identifying as an acolyte and collaborator of former President Donald Trump, including in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Both Scalise and Jordan present much more conservative alternatives to Kevin McCarthy, the ousted speaker who always appeared more focused on his personal ascent than any ideological mission. It’s nearly certain that the GOP House leadership over the next few days will tilt further to the right, absent a Scalise-Jordan stalemate that causes a less ideological alternative to emerge – or a comeback from McCarthy, who refused to rule himself out in interviews Monday.

A Shift in the Republican Party

A victory for either Scalise or Jordan would parallel and reinforce the movement underway in the Republican presidential race. On that front, Trump has established himself as a dominant front-runner, while embracing an agenda and rhetoric arguably even more vitriolic and divisive than during his presidency.

The speakership succession in the House and Trump’s restoration in the presidential race are both pushing the GOP in the same direction – toward a 2024 message and strategy focused overwhelmingly on the priorities and grievances of its base voters. The combination of another Trump nomination and a House GOP leadership more firmly rooted in the right could help the party generate enormous turnout next year from its most ardent supporters.

The Challenge for the GOP

However, such an alignment would test the GOP’s ability to maintain support through Election Day from independent and swing voters who are now expressing the most receptivity to the party in years, amid their widespread disenchantment with President Joe Biden’s performance. The GOP’s national leaders “don’t seem interested in taking advantage of the situation that they are being presented” among less partisan swing voters, said Paul Bentz, an Arizona-based Republican pollster.

Former Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo likewise believes that the Republican lurch to the right is threatening the party’s capacity to hold the large pool of swing voters discontented with Biden. “But for Donald Trump and the culture of dysfunction and chaos that he’s promoted inside the House Republican conference, Republicans would likely have a major advantage going into 2024 and a strong possibility of winning a trifecta again” through control of the White House, the House, and the Senate, Curbelo said.

The Influence of Scalise and Jordan

It remains to be seen how far the GOP will reposition itself to the right in the speakership and presidential decisions confronting the party. But the choices represent more a difference of degree than of kind. A victory in the speakership race for Jordan, who has defended Trump and attacked Biden and other Democrats with equal ferocity, would most clearly brand the House GOP as a Trump subsidiary.

But even Scalise, the alternative considered more palatable to moderate Republicans, is a staunch conservative who once described himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” referring to the former Ku Klux Klan leader turned Republican political candidate.

Repositioning in the Presidential Race

The dynamic in the presidential race is similar. Though it has attracted little attention, Trump has put forward an agenda of bristling militancy, including a massive door-to-door deportation campaign against undocumented migrants, deploying the National Guard into blue cities to fight crime, and eliminating civil service protections for vast swathes of the federal workforce.

But the rest of the GOP field has also advanced hardline conservative ideas that likely would have been considered politically untenable even a few years ago – such as imposing a national ban on abortion, shooting undocumented migrants crossing the southern border, and using US military forces to attack drug cartels inside Mexico, even without permission from the Mexican government.

The GOP’s Political Strategy

On both the congressional and presidential fronts, all of this points toward the GOP doubling down on the political strategy that has defined the party in the Trump era, while producing very uneven results. After Trump’s unexpected victory in 2016, the elections of 2018, 2020, and 2022 all generated disappointing outcomes for the GOP.

Trump’s electoral strengths were offset by two powerful counterforces. Resistance to Trump and candidates in his mold inspired enormous turnout from Democratic constituencies, with young people (many of them Black, Latino or Asian American) voting at elevated levels particularly while he was in the White House during the 2018 and 2020 elections. Trump’s imprint on the party also alienated large numbers of centrist and swing voters, particularly women and those with at least a four-year college degree.

Since the midterm election, polls have consistently shown that discontent with Biden has created an opening for Republicans to improve on that performance in 2024, perhaps substantially. Biden’s rating among independent voters has consistently lagged, with only about one-third of them approving of his job performance.

A national Marquette University Law School poll released last week recorded especially bleak ratings for Biden among independents, both for his performance and personal characteristics. In that survey, independents preferred Trump over Biden on various issues. Over two-thirds of independents said they considered Biden too old to serve as president (compared with about two-fifths for Trump).

Read More of this Story at – 2023-10-10 12:16:00

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