For the past few weeks, Donald Trump and close allies have been keeping an eye on prominent conservatives who the president believes are ready to throw him under the bus if he loses his bid for re-election.
Two people who have spoken to Trump say the president has expressed suspicion that members of his own party believe he will be defeated by Joe Biden. This sense of paranoia has been fueled by the president’s aides and confidants, who have marked news coverage for him about Republican politicians who either openly criticize his behavior or try to distance themselves from a possible election bloodbath. According to one of the sources with direct knowledge, the president is already considering retaliation.
“[The president] said something to: if you back up from him now, you do not bother to come back for a service when he wins, ”said the other source. “He came up with a comment on how there are some people out there that you can only trust when things go your way.”
Some of the coverage that has been bookmarked for Trump includes recent stories about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who not only shared with the president the issue of coronavirus-related stimulus legislation, but made a point of saying he did not had I not been to the White House for several weeks because of its cavalier approach to the pandemic.
Trump’s frictions with Republican senators extend beyond that. Last week, President Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) attacked on Twitter over “an ugly rumor” that she would oppose his Supreme Court candidate, Amy Coney Barrett. He said of the threatened occupant: “Not worth working!” – a bit that was met with sighs among Trump strategists who remarked that it was completely unnecessary. Trump already has enough votes for Barrett’s confirmation.
In addition, there is strong suspicion within Trump’s inner sanctuary that Senator Ben Sasse’s (R-NE) office leaked the contents of a call he had with voters in which he chastised the president for embracing dictators and not condemning conspiracies. Trumps anger over the call boiled over Saturday with yet another Twitter attack.
There has also been a bit of an eye-roll for Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who has made two recent statements that chastise what he describes as the corrosive turn that national politics has taken. Remarkably in these statements, condemnation of Trump and nary was a critique of Biden.
“You hate to see it, but having been to Capitol Hill is a good way to get attention for speaking out against your own party,” the former rep said. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who has served as an official Trump for years. surrogate. “Ben Sasse is an intelligent guy and I’m sorry he’s decided it’s time to frolic, [but] I do not know how it helps swing mode [Republicans] either … But you still do not see the ideological people breaking. If Ralph Reed said, ‘OK, I’m away from here,’ it would be different. “
But those who signal that they are ready to jump ship include some major players in conservative politics. One of the president’s most powerful and influential confidant, billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has told staff that he believes Biden is winning in a landslide, as The Daily Beast reported last week, and that he is repulsed by the president’s leadership of COVID. 19 crisis.
Sources familiar with the situation say Trump and Murdoch have not spoken for several weeks. A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the story, but Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement: “President Trump won in 2016 without vocal support from the political insider crowd, and he will do it again. . The president has the support of over 90 percent of Republicans, and our rally data shows that about a quarter of rally registrants are not even registered as Republicans. ”
The knives are not just out for perceived Republican turncoats. Within the broad universe of GOP agents working to re-elect the president, guilt has already begun for the state of the campaign. A senior Republican official who has consulted the campaign said that while staff were still convinced the president could win, they were also increasingly concerned about – what the official described as – “the gross incompetence of how things were used. “
“I think there is a reality where this is what happens in a campaign. This is the point where people start figuring out who is making the mistake, ”the official said. Asked who would make the mistake, the source added: “There is no doubt about that [former campaign manager] Brad [Parscale] will take a large part of it because it is easy. But anyone with a brain looking back on this will point to Jared [Kushner]. Jared cannot be both brainless and flawless. ”
Inside wider GOP circles, a bit of cold realism has taken hold of Trump’s prospects. Few, if any, are pollyannaish. The optimism that still exists is linked to two features of the race: that the president faced a similar skepticism (including within his own party) four years ago and still won; and that this goes around, the Trump campaign has invested significantly more in turnout than he did in 2016.
“He does not win, but there has always been a feeling that he was in this position in , that it will tighten and that we have this basic game that will put us over the top, ”said a GOP official involved in the re-election effort.
But even the official admitted the limits of spinach. “A basic game is a field goal in a close game,” the official said. “There are not three touchdowns.”
Among Republican agents, there has been an expectation that Trump’s election deficit to Biden would close as the election approached. But the tightening has not happened as fast as they had hoped, and among the explanations for it include the president’s flammable debate performance, his infection with COVID and the fact that he has been used out on the airwaves.
There is also a growing consensus among the GOP consulting class that Trump has lost some of the political instincts that made him both unorthodox and effective in his run in 2016. At the time, Trump closed the campaign by largely sticking to the script, sticking demonstrations and only submit secular tweets. This time, he embraced wild conspiracies – such as. The Osama bin Laden raid, which was staged – and placed more Facebook ads attacking Hillary Clinton than going after Biden on trade.
“I guess it’s hard when you’re in the White House, but it’s different than 2016,” the GOP official said. “It simply came to our notice then. It’s completely off the field all the time. ”