Take some time to survey the barren landscape of budding 2024 GOP hopefuls and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Republicans have little choice but to stick with Donald Trump for now.
Following the devastating Jan. 6 riot, GOP lawmakers had the perfect inflection point to part ways with Trump on the most basic of principles—the U.S. commander in chief shouldn’t launch an attack on the nation’s seat of government and then gleefully watch it unfold. The only Americans who could argue with that logic are dead-to-rights seditionists.
But instead of capitalizing on a golden opportunity, the nation’s three most-powerful elected Republicans melted into a telling puddle of uselessness. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy folded within weeks, rushing down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump’s ring. Vice President Mike Pence—the man Trump targeted for physical harm during the insurrection—refused to step forward and take a stand for himself or even his family members, who had joined him at the Capitol on Jan. 6 for certification of the election results. It’s honestly impossible to think of anything more pathetic than that.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is running a close second to Pence. After more than a decade of being celebrated by D.C. reporters as the Senate GOP’s master puppeteer, McConnell followed his caucus rather than led it on impeachment. Despite putting on a show for corporate donors with a scathing indictment of Trump, McConnell voted to acquit because he didn’t have the juice to convince his caucus that protecting a U.S. president who launched an attack on the homeland probably wasn’t a great precedent. Senate Republicans have now left Americans to wonder, what on earth could possibly be an impeachable offense?
But yeah, three peas in a pod—Pence, McConnell, and McCarthy—demonstrating the complete moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party and sheer inability of anyone among GOP electeds to demonstrate something that might be mistaken for leadership.
Cue the Tuesday Politico/Morning Consult poll showing 53% of GOP voters would vote for Trump if a primary were held today. The closest second was Pence at just 12%—apparently that’s what being a spineless loyalist gets you. That said, no one else even makes double digits at this point. The poll also found that 57% of Republican voters want Trump to play a major role in the GOP going forward. That represents a comeback of sorts for Trump since Jan. 7 when some 40% hoped Trump would play an active role.
What’s both striking and problematic about recent polling among Republicans is that while Trump remains the most dominant figure in the GOP, he also divides conservative voters. For instance, while 57% of GOP voters wanted a major role for Trump, 17% favored a minor role for him, and 18% wanted no role for Trump at all. That’s a deep split.
The latest Civiqs polling notes a similar phenomenon. Of the 43% of respondents who said they voted for Trump, about two-thirds (28%) said they think of themselves as “Trump supporters” while the other third considers themselves “Republican Party supporters.”
So while Trump is bound to continue his role as a dominant force in the Republican Party, he’s also bound to divide the party amongst itself.