Democrats claim that impeaching Donald Trump after he’s left office is a question of “accountability” and that Trump must be humiliated and prevented from running for office ever again.
But Trump’s impeachment trial will only strengthen the Republican base. Trump has more clout within the party since he left office. And despite not being on social media, he has become even more of a presence. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Largo to huddle with Trump about his and the GOP’s future — a remarkable occurrence considering the ill favor Trump is in with many national Republicans.
But McCarthy knows that Trump is the key to any success the Republicans will have in 2022. For better or worse, the Republicans and Trump are joined at the hip and they will sink or swim together.
This has become clear as members hear an earful from Trump supporters when they go home. And, if anything, Trump has gained prestige as a result of the torrent of abuse coming from the Left.
“People don’t want to hear anything against Trump,” Palmeri said during an appearance on MSNBC. “Actually, the more he stays out of the media, the more that he becomes this martyr, this looming figure over the GOP.”
In fact, there is now a “crusade” being waged on behalf of the former president in places like Wyoming, where Trump is “way more popular” [than] the state’s high-ranking congressional Republican, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, Palmeri said.
The people of Wyoming are not alone. In red states, especially, Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial will only energize them more. Instead of a dispirited, fractured Republican Party, Democrats may very well be facing an enraged, motivated GOP electorate in 2022. The anti-Trump faction is being purged. What’s left will be hardcore Trump supporters itching to get back at Democrats.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Republicans will sweep to victory. The party of Trump might be smaller and more regional. And the election would play out quite differently with Trump not running.
The Trump dynamic, operatives said, could play out in very dramatic ways: While the party apparatus may subtly back certain candidates in key Senate primaries, Trump could weigh in to back candidates who have been openly loyal to him, creating a clear rift between party leaders and the former President.
“It is incredibly complicating,” said a top Republican who has worked on Senate races. “It was incredibly complicated over the last few years and we had at least a seat at the table. He has left the building, so any leverage that Senate Republicans possibly had that they could possibly utilize to get him on the same page are no longer options.”
Trump knows the political score and will have to decide whether he wants to help or hurt the party. A few well-placed endorsements could hand the Senate to Republicans. Or he could just as easily back some QAnon nutcase who would lose by 30 points in a statewide race.
One thing is certain; the Republican base loves Trump and is likely to follow wherever he leads — whether over a cliff or on the victory stand.