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The ‘Era of Trump’ Remakes the GOP

PETER O’CONNOR
Staff Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

“The president’s primary endorsements are winning and his critics are retiring”

By  Janet Hook   (The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, August 28, 2018)

“Jacksonville, Fla. —  For months after Republican Adam Putnam entered the Florida gubernatorial race, he seemed almost unbeatable.  He had a record of government and political success, a trove of endorsements, robust fundraising and a solid lead in most polls over his principal rival, GOP Rep. Ron deSantis.

Then Mr. deSantis, a vocal defender  of President Trump, picked up the president’s endorsement in June, touted it in a new ad, and appeared with Mr. Trump at a campaign rally in Tampa.  Mr. DeSantis shot to the lead in the polls.

“The fallout from the president’s  visit to Florida was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen,” said Mr. Putnam, the state agriculture commissioner, who has worked ever since to catch up in advance of Florida’s  Aug. 28 primary election.  (He lost.)

After more than two decades of tension within the GOP between a restive base and its traditional establishment, Trumpism, the archetypical grass-roots movement is winning.

With the 2018 primaries about to end, all but two of the 37 Republicans Mr. Trump has endorsed for House, Senate and Governor during their primary campaigns have won.  Mr. Trump has abandoned or undercut the party’s traditional commitment to free trade, fiscal conservatism and a hawkish foreign policy.

Mr. Trump’s most vocal GOP critics in elective office have been defeated in primaries, announced their retirement or gone quiet.  No critic was more forceful than Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who died Saturday.

House  Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, once a rising star of the party and free-market conservatism, is  retiring .  Of the 33 House and Senate Republicans quitting Capitol Hill in 2018  — not including those running for higher office  –just two supported Mr. Trump in 2016 before he became the presumptive nominee.  At least five of them didn’t endorse  Mr. Trump after he won the nomination.

Mr. Trump , thus far, has retained strong support from Republican voters, giving him leverage to yank the party into his orbit.  His involvement in primaries represents a departure from  the 2016 campaign, when Mr. Trump often acted more like an independent than a Republican standard bearer.  ‘The base wants to know what I want,’  Mr. Trump said in an interview.  ‘I’ve always heard all my life that if you endorse somebody, it’s nice to have, but doesn’t mean anything in terms of points….I’m raising people.’

Mr. Trump sees his role as mobilizing voters.  ‘It energizes my people much more than it energizes [oponents],’he said.

The president’s supporters say the policies and candidates  he is advancing bring  the party more in line with what GOP voters want.

Some GOP leaders say the president’s endorsements could hurt their chances in the general election by advancing candidates who could alienate swing voters or mobilize Democrats to even more vigorous opposition.”

More: “Every president makes a mark on his political party  –sometimes a profound one.  Bill Clinton engineered a turn to the center for Democrats in the 1990s; Ronald Reagan opened a new era of conservatism for Republicans in the 1980s.

Only two candidates have lost a primary so far after being endorsed by Mr. Trump.  SEN Luther Strange of Alabama was defeated in the GOP special election runoff in September 2017.  In last week’s Wyoming GOP gubernatorial primary, conservative businessman Foster Friess lost his bid despite an election day Trump endorsement.

In the Arizona race for SEN Flake’s open seat, pro Trump credentials are being touted by all three Republicans, whom a local columnist  called the ‘’MAGA Triplets’ using the acronym for Trump’s campaign slogan.”

( We should all watch the Governor’s race here  in Florida. We now know the candidates of both Democrats and Republicans,  That contest will take the endorsement game to the next level. Trump’s margin of victory in Florida in 2016 was only two points.)

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