Senate Republicans Split From Trump, What Does This Moment Mean for the Future of the GOP?

March 15, 2019

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Two things happened on the Hill this week. The most high profile of course came on Thursday when the Republican-controlled Senate voted with Democrats, in a rebuke of President Trump’s national emergency declaration for funding of the border wall.

But here’s something that might have gotten lost: The day before seven Republican senators voted along with Democrats to end U.S. support of the Saudi led war in Yemen.

What does this split tell us about President Trump’s relationship with Republicans in congress? Eliana Johnson is a White House Reporter for Politico. She’s been following this and is here to help us make sense of it all.

We also hear from former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld who is considering a primary challenge to President Trump.

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and an opinion columnist at the Washington Post, thinks Governor Weld or any other ‘moderate’ Republican considering a challenge to President Trump is on a fool’s errand.  

This month, Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington state, declared he is running for President, and climate change is his number one issue.

According to a recent Pew Research Survey, about 67 percent of Democrats see climate change as a top priority, but only 21 percent of Republicans feel that way. Amy asked Governor Inslee how he plans to bring the country together over an issue that only half of the country views as a priority.

Amy's Final Take: 

Since that day in 2015 when he descended the golden escalator in Trump tower, people like me have wondered whether the GOP would split apart over Donald Trump. His populist, pro-tariff views would alienate business-friendly GOP types. His past support for abortion rights and his multiple divorces would scare off evangelical voters. And, his anti-immigration rhetoric went against the advice of establishment Republicans who warned that unless the GOP expanded its appeal beyond white voters, it would find itself in a demographic death-spiral. Yet, here we are - almost four years later - and the president is as popular with the GOP base as ever.

What keeps the GOP together? The president has given Republicans what they wanted - and avoided (for now) the things they worried about him doing. Many don’t like the steel and aluminum tariffs. But, back in 2016 he warned of imposing a 45 percent tariff on Chinese-made goods. Instead of unilaterally pulling out of NAFTA, as he once warned he’d do, he re-negotiated the trade deal. And, he’s not wavered on cultural or social issues that are important to evangelical voters. In other words, he’s giving most Republicans what they wanted.

Another unifying factor for the GOP: the 2020 democratic candidates. Even if you don’t like Trump, well, the potential Democratic nominee could be much, much worse.  This is why the president is spending so much time and energy labeling Democrats as the party of socialism.

So, the GOP sticks with Trump because he’s giving them most of what they want, but also because the Democratic choice is unpalatable. We should stop asking if Trump is going to lose support from Republicans - he probably won’t. Instead, what we should be looking for is whether he can keep GOPers as motivated to turn out and vote.  Trump had an enthusiasm advantage over Clinton in 2016. In 2018, it was Democrats who were more motivated. Let’s see what 2020 brings.

Read Amy's latest Cook Political report here.