Think Donald Trump’s going away? Think again, a former adviser to President Trump says. That’s bad news for Democrats — and worse news for the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the now-former president.
“They will all get primary challenges in my opinion,” former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told Fox News on Thursday. “I don’t know at what level the president’s going to weigh in on each of those races, but I think he will be involved in a number of them.”
Lewandowski, who guided Trump through the early primaries of the 2016 campaign until several controversies forced him out, served as an adviser on Trump’s 2020 run. He said Trump won’t leave and form a splinter party, as some news outlets had claimed.
“I don’t think the president has any interest in being part of a third party,” Lewandowski said.
“The ballot access requirements for third parties are exceptionally difficult,” he said. “If the goal is to elect individuals, a third party is not a good vehicle to do that, historically speaking. I think the president is going to work within the two-party structure that currently exists and he’ll be very effective inside that structure.”
That’s not heartening news for Democrats, either, considering Lewandowski said Trump plans to be “actively involved” in the 2022 electoral process.
“The president continues to have enormous support and approval among Republican primary voters. He continues to have hundreds of millions of dollars in his campaign account, which he can utilize,” Lewandowski said.
“And he will continue to be actively involved in recruiting candidates and holding elected officials accountable for their votes.”
If Lewandowski has some knowledge about the role that Trump will play going forward — or whether Trump was considering a 2024 run at the White House — he was cagey about it.
“We’re going to see how much influence the president wants to exert going forward,” Lewandowski said. “I don’t think anybody knows that yet.”
However, that influence could be more considerable than was thought at the beginning of January.
The thaw began in earnest last week when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy traveled down to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to visit with the former president.
“Today, President Trump committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022. A Republican majority will listen to our fellow Americans and solve the challenges facing our nation,” the California Republican said in a statement.
“Democrats, on the other hand, have only put forward an agenda that divides us — such as impeaching a President who is now a private citizen and destroying blue-collar energy jobs. For the sake of our country, the radical Democrat agenda must be stopped.”
He would go on to tweet, “United and ready to win in ’22.”
United and ready to win in ’22. https://t.co/YJWqCdBrCh
— Kevin McCarthy (@kevinomccarthy) January 28, 2021
Furthermore, a Morning Consult poll of Republicans taken between Jan. 22-25 found that 50 percent felt Trump should play a role in the Republican Party going forward. That’s up from 41 percent in a poll taken Jan. 6-7 in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol incursion.
How serious the damage is to the Trump brand remains to be seen, but this all isn’t a heartening picture for the Democrats (or for Liz Cheney, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
The hope on the left had been that the Capitol incursion and the salad of angry words — “sedition!” “insurrection!” “treason!” — would turn Trump into a mob boss in winter. He’d be able to sit around Mar-a-Lago and lick his wounds as he watched TV and idly played with his anonymous Twitter burner account. Maybe once in a while Matt Gaetz or Roger Stone would come by and pay him a visit, pretending that he was was still important. But above all, Trump would just Go Away.
Or, even better for Democrats, he could start a third party! If he still has an energized base, they could go with him, ensuring the Democrats controlled politics for a generation. The Patriot Party, as it was supposed to be called, could act as Ross Perot writ large, spoiling not just presidential elections for the Republicans but congressional elections, too. Heck, they’d let Trump have his Twitter account back in a heartbeat if he left the GOP.
Regardless of whether Trump’s political brand ever fully recovers from the events of Jan. 6, what’s clear is that it isn’t as damaged as most thought it was. His numbers are up and his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial is almost certain.
Trump may be a polarizing influence within the party, but he can still get his base to polling places like few others can.
Furthermore, he’ll neither be on the ballot nor in office in 2022. Whether he likes it or not, Trump will play a supporting role in a midterm that’ll be a referendum on Joe Biden’s presidency, giving the GOP a prime opportunity to maximize the energy and voter engagement Trump brings to the table while minimizing the ability of vulnerable Democrats to run against Trump as opposed to running for their own party’s platform. And as for the idea that Trump would cleave off his voters to start his own party, those around the former president have indicated this is a left-wing fantasy.
As for the 10 Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment in the House, nearly all of them will be vulnerable to primary challenges, this doesn’t augur well. It could be particularly bad for Cheney, who holds a position in House leadership and hails from bright-red Wyoming where her vote to impeach wasn’t popular at all.
In short, Donald Trump isn’t going away anytime soon. A few weeks ago, that would have made Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans secretly gleeful. If that feeling hasn’t already faded, it should.
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