It's really hard to wrap one's mind around how hapless House Republicans are, not to mention the astounding failure in leadership Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy represents.
To review: McCarthy ran down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump's ring and publicly enlist his help in retaking the House majority, while also failing to extract any promises from Trump not to target sitting members of their caucus. In other words, the GOP incumbents who voted to convict Donald Trump—at least a handful of whom hail from moderate/swingy districts—are on their own. Seven of the 10 Republicans who voted to convict have already attracted primary challengers.
Now some House Republicans are revisiting the fact that McCarthy sold out his caucus, and they apparently regret the error. Control of the House could literally come down to a handful of seats, and Trump's vendetta tour is putting roughly that many House Republicans at risk of losing their primaries and therefore their districts to more reasonable Democratic challengers in the general election. In Trump's first major rally since Democrats took control of the White House, Trump outlined a hit list of sorts—reading the names of every single congressional Republican who found him guilty of inciting an insurrection.
According to Politico, at least four Republicans hold seats that are particularly likely to flip if they lose their primary to a Trumplican:
- Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, "one of the only Republicans to represent a district touching the Pacific Ocean"
- Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, a veteran lawmaker with very high name ID
- Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, a freshman GOP lawmaker who won Justin Amash's former district
- Rep. David Valadao of California, who just won his district back after being unseated on 2018
Some Republicans are now attempting to clean up McCarthy's mess—pleading with Trump not to meddle in GOP primaries (that'll work) and privately telling their vulnerable colleagues they'll back them up after McCarthy threw them to the wolves.
Chief among them is Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who told Politico he's planning on lobbying Trump to back off the primaries. “It’s probably better for us that we keep these people,” Emmer said. Yep, it probably is. Best of luck reasoning with Trump.
A host of other House Republicans are now sensing danger and chiming in too:
- “We don’t need anything that exacerbates divisions,” said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. “We ought to be united and be focused on retaking the majority, and I think settling scores gets in the way of that.”
- “I would encourage the [former] president to not weigh in and let the voters make the decision,” said Rep. Tom Reed of New York, co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. "When you overtly and publicly go out there, and have that type of attack on a member of the family, I don’t think that’s a wise move.”
- “I don’t like when we’re calling out anyone by name in a negative fashion,” added Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, who represents a purple seat in the St. Louis suburbs. “We need everybody to get across the finish line.”
Gee, that's a lot of concern from members of a caucus in which a majority of Republicans voted against certifying the 2020 election results, and then nearly all of whom voted to clear Trump of wrongdoing after he sicced a murderous mob on the Capitol. House Republicans handed the party to Trump on a silver platter and now some are under the impression he’s someone who can be reasoned with. Maybe they really didn’t read any of those tweets for four solid years.
But even if it's dawning on some caucus members that Trump alone could sink their chances of retaking the majority, McCarthy is feeling a lot less urgency.
“I look forward to working with each member of our conference in support of their re-election efforts,” McCarthy told Politico in the statement. “We will take back the House in November 2022.”
Nothing short of inspiration from chief LINO (leader in name only) Kevin McCarthy.