For a former president who was in office for only one term, Donald Trump’s power and control over the Republican Party sure is criticized and challenged.
Why, many wonder? Because everyone realizes Trump’s word still carries enormous weight in politics today -- not with the establishment, but with the voters. The one-of-a-kind first-time politician never tried to make nice with the elites of his own party, immediately setting himself apart from Republican presidential nominees of the recent past. Trump took on all comers and left them lying face down in the center of the proverbial ring after being evaded, stood up and ultimately knocked out.
The New York outsider provided the stodgy old guard Republicans much of what they’d pretended to fight for during his few short years at the helm, yet still they didn’t believe in him. Trump gave the country tax reform that lowered the corporate tax rate (making America more competitive to attract investment), made the code fairer (including the famous SALT tax, which hits rich taxpayers in blue states particularly hard because they can only deduct so much state and local taxes from their federal return), waged a full frontal assault on illegal immigration (in the process, exposing the duplicity of GOP establishment leaders who wavered on the need to promote Americans over foreigners) and made no pretense of wanting to start another disastrous and expensive war.
For his trouble, Trump was picked on, not supported, left to fend for himself in the absurd and false Russian collusion investigation/witch hunt and even left for dead by his doubters when the Democrats impeached him in 2020 (the first time, the one nobody talks about anymore though it was only two years ago that the hearings were in full fury).
Upon leaving office ten months ago, many wondered what Trump would do. Would he run again? Would he remain visible? Would he excessively litigate grievances? Would he hold grudges? Would he take revenge? Would anyone listen if he spoke out?
Trump let it be known that he would not only stay in the game, he would vigorously pursue a cadre of disloyal RINO Republicans who made his life difficult and continually worked to tarnish his legacy. One of the biggest offenders announced her reelection bid last week.
“Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, announced … her bid for reelection, setting up a battle to fend off a challenge by an opponent endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
“Her campaign video says Ms. Murkowski focuses on working with both parties to push through ‘partisan gridlock and dysfunction,’ and she warns about ‘lower 48 outsiders’ who ‘are going to try to grab Alaska’s Senate seat for their partisan agenda.’ She adds, ‘They don’t understand our state, and frankly, they couldn’t care less about your future.’
“Ms. Murkowski, 63, faces an aggressive Republican opponent, Kelly Tshibaka, a Harvard-trained attorney, who spent 18 years in Washington in the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s Office and has the support of Mr. Trump. The Senate Leadership Fund, associated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, endorsed Ms. Murkowski, establishing another battle between both party leaders.”
Hence, Donald Trump’s power will be tested once again. As a card-carrying member of the Republican establishment, Murkowski will certainly have all the money she’ll need to mount another campaign. She and Mitch McConnell are probably doing high-fives behind closed doors this very moment at the prospect of taking on the specter of Trump in a primary, and the “machine” is definitely in her corner.
(Unfortunately, Alaska’s new voting rules will only help her -- a “jungle primary” where the top four finishers advance to the November ballot, decided by “ranked choice” voting.)
I don’t pretend to know a lot about Alaska’s internal politics, though a noticeable schism developed in 2008 when then Gov. Sarah Palin was tapped by John McCain to be his running mate, and again in 2010 when conservatives managed an improbable but satisfying victory in the state’s GOP senate primary (Tea Party backed conservative Joe Miller won, remember?). Bye, bye, Lisa, many of us thought, thinking we’d bagged a major RINO who would slink to the background and never be seen or heard from again.
It was wishful thinking. Murkowski ran a write-in campaign funded by her family’s crooked connections, and, together with questionable (at best) tactics to recruit Democrats to vote for her instead of their hopeless candidate -- and fraud, too -- she came out on top. Ever since that time Murkowski’s gone out of her way to stick her thumbs in the eyes of conservatives. As perhaps the shiniest example of a spineless politician from an otherwise conservative state, Murk voted against repealing and replacing Obamacare and has time and again purposely put herself at odds with conservative causes.
Don’t forget, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed because Maine Senator Susan Collins opted to vote for him. Murkowski voted present, the only Republican to do so. What a loser.
At any rate, Trump’s made no secret of his feelings regarding Murkowski. She didn’t vote to impeach him the first time it was put to a tally (in early 2020), but she joined fellow RINOs Mitt Romney, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Collins, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey in saying “guilty” earlier this year. To my knowledge, only Murkowski is up for reelection in 2022 (and a few are retiring).
This will be another big trial balloon for Trump’s endorsement power. Together with the nationwide effort to oust Rep. Liz Cheney in next August’s Wyoming GOP primary, the Alaska Republican primary and election is likely to get more than its share of attention from the media. And here’s guessing if/when conservatives are successful in taking the “R” away from Murkowski again, she’ll run another write-in campaign (that is, if she has to under the “jungle primary” rules).
There was no Donald Trump in 2010 to fuel the opposition to her. But will Trump’s say so alone be enough to beat a united coalition of Murkowski’s Alaska establishment honks coupled with a lot of the state’s Democrat voters? Sarah Palin was a national conservative favorite in ‘10 and she couldn’t convince Republicans to kick Murkowski to the side all by herself. Getting rid of RINO Lisa would be a huge win for the limited government cause.
Again, we’ll see. It wasn’t a sure-thing that Murkowski would run again, but now that she’s decided to do it, it’s game on. There’ll be an attractive RINO hunt in the far north next year -- get your political guns ready, it’ll be quite the chase.
Trump’s being challenged in other ways as well. Politico reported last week that former New Jersey Governor -- and 2016 Republican presidential candidate -- Chris Christie “is mounting a de facto exploratory bid” for president, suggesting that “Trump is in the rearview mirror.” This isn’t exactly news since Christie’s hinted that he was thinking about giving it another shot and that Trump’s presence in the race wouldn’t deter him from conducting a campaign.
Sources quoted in the article implied that Christie thinks Trump is finished politically and that he, the original right-leaning tough talker from the Garden State, would take over the “tell it like it is” position in the GOP.
It was pointed out that decades ago, Christie put Jared Kushner’s dad in prison, which might’ve led to disfavor in Trump-world for the rotund former prosecutor. Christie was fired as head of Trump’s transition team in 2016, and was also said to be miffed that Trump didn’t offer Chris a position as his Attorney General or Chief of Staff in the new administration. Did it lead to bad blood?
Christie’s done some good things over the years, and, as I pointed out recently, was almost singly responsible for eliminating Marco Rubio as the lone credible establishment rival to Trump and Ted Cruz in 2016. But there’s just no conceivable path for Christie here. Conservatives would never trust him, and besides, if Trump does run, nearly all Republicans will be in his corner.
If Trump stays out, which appears unlikely, there definitely should be other conservatives, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who would be considered any day before an old retread like Chris Christie. DeSantis is somewhat of a tough guy himself, never shrinking from confrontations with the media or liberals in his state. Or with the Biden administration.
Because he’s speaking out early, Christie does represent a bit of a challenge to Trump’s current domination of the GOP -- but not a major one.
Democrats will offer their own test to Trump in the future regardless of whether he competes on the national ticket or not. Some pollsters say it’s increasingly looking like a 2020 repeat between Trump and senile Joe. One way or another, it’s also clear it won’t be hapless air-brain Kamala Harris.
In Paris last week, Harris continued to embarrass herself, including adopting what sounded like a faux French accent when talking with French scientists. Her reputation and standing has fallen so far and so low that her husband took to defending the pathetic pol, suggesting it was hard to be a trailblazer -- first black woman elected to the vice presidency.
No, it’s hard to be Kamala Harris. The biggest mistake in American political history.
Because Donald Trump was so controversial, he will continuously be challenged by the political establishment elites in both parties. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s decision to run for reelection represents a potentially tough test, but also an opportunity to strike another blow against the swamp. RINOs won’t be chased away easily -- we must defeat them.
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