AN OBSCURE SOUTH DAKOTA SENATOR has generated a firestorm within the Republican Party, as a chorus rises that it’s time to move on — Donald Trump lost in 2020, there was no significant voter fraud, so get over it.
MIKE ROUNDS, A RELIABLY CONSERVATIVE back-bencher, is well regarded by colleagues in both parties. He made headlines this past weekend by declaring that “While there were some irregularities, there were none of the irregularities which would have risen to the point where they would have changed the vote outcome in a single state. We simply did not win the election.”
PREDICTABLY, TRUMP HIT BACK with juvenile taunts, asking whether Rounds “is crazy or just stupid” to not challenge the argument that the election was stolen. Trump called Rounds a “jerk,” which angered most Republicans in the Senate.
MANY REPUBLICANS JUMPED TO DEFEND ROUNDS: “I take great exception to anybody who calls Mike Rounds a jerk,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican. “Because he’s one of the kindest, nicest, most sincere members that we have.” Rounds lost his wife to cancer in November.
OTHER REPUBLICANS DEFENDED ROUNDS: “I think Sen. Rounds told the truth about what happened in the 2020 election. And I agree with him,” Sen. Mitch McConnell declared. “I say welcome to the club,” said the highly regarded Sen. John Thune (R-SD). There’s growing anger over the Trump litmus test, which requires GOP candidates to agree that the election was stolen.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS REPUBLICAN ANGER toward Trump? He still has strong support in the House and within the Republican base, but the mantra to “move on” is growing within the party. And there’s a belief that Trump faces a serious primary challenge challenge if he runs for the nomination in 2024.
WELCOME TO NEW HAMPSHIRE: Several Republicans will get to enjoy the Granite State winter in early 2024. Voters there are notoriously independent, so at least three potential challengers will get a careful look — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. All three could be formidable candidates; one or two of them could keep Trump’s vote total to only 50%.
AS THE 2024 CAMPAIGN moves southward, Trump probably would capture most of the Sun Belt primaries. But a strong showing by Hogan or Cheney — who will blast away at Trump — could soften up the former president in the general election.
VIRTUALLY EVERY REPUBLICAN WE’VE TALKED TO believes Trump lost the election, with no significant fraud. And now he has vocal enemies within his own party, especially in the Senate, where it’s clear that Trump has worn out his welcome.
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