Washington — Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said Sunday that Republicans “overwhelmingly” agree with the actions former President Donald Trump’s took while in office, even as the party appears deeply fractured in the wake of his presidency.
In an interview with “Face the Nation,” McDaniel was pressed on the continued embrace of Mr. Trump by some wings of the GOP, even as the party grapples with losing the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2020. Mr. Trump’s position as the future of the party, she said, will be decided by Republican voters.
“The voters are saying overwhelmingly they agree with what President Trump did in office,” McDaniel told “Face the Nation. “As you see Joe Biden strip away energy independence and cancel the Keystone pipeline, as you see Joe Biden say, I’m going to prioritize opening our borders over opening our schools, opening our economies, when you see the vaccine rollout that started under Operation Warp Speed in less than a year — these are the types of things that voters are saying they saw happen in the Trump administration and now they’re seeing the Biden administration strip those things away.”
Mr. Trump is set to make his first public appearance since leaving office at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering of Republicans, in Florida later on Sunday. During his remarks, the former president is expected to reaffirm his position as the leader of the Republican Party and criticize his successor, President Biden, as well as members of his own party who have denounced the former president in the wake of the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
While Mr. Trump continues to boast a large political following and loyal base of support, the GOP in the wake of the Trump presidency is divided, as some Republicans believe the party should move on without him.
Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Mr. Trump for “incitement of insurrection” due to his conduct January 6, and seven Senate Republicans voted to convict him of the impeachment charge. Some state Republican parties have moved to censure their GOP home-state senators and lawmakers for the votes.
Of the intra-party rebukes from state Republican leaders, McDaniel said, “We can have division within our party, and you can have state parties say, ‘I disagree with that vote and I disagree with what you did there.’ But overwhelmingly our party agrees with each other on more than we disagree with each other on.”
Hanging over the party, meanwhile, is whether Mr. Trump will seek the presidency again in 2024, though McDaniel said she doesn’t know if he will run. The former president is, however, expected to be active in the next election cycle, helping Republicans to win back majorities in the House and Senate in 2022.
“We are a handful of seats away from taking back the House, we picked up 15 this last election, and one seat away from taking back the Senate,” McDaniel said, adding that a growing number of Republicans “recognize we need to unite around, how do we win back these majorities and stop Biden in his tracks?”
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois who has been vocal of the need for the GOP to publicly split from Mr. Trump, agreed there is unity among Republicans in opposing aspects of Mr. Biden’s agenda. But he believes the party is divided in its vision for the future.
“I think we are a party that’s been for too long pedaling in fear, using fear as a compelling way to get votes. And fear does motivate. But after a while, fear can destroy a country, can destroy narratives, and it can destroy a democracy. And we have to quit peddling that,” Kinzinger, who was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, told “Face the Nation.”
Kinzinger predicted the former president’s forthcoming remarks will be self-congratulatory.
“No ability to recognize the fact that we have lost the House, the Senate and the presidency because of Donald Trump,” he said. “And you’re going to see a lot of fear.”
Kinzinger acknowledged Mr. Trump continues to cultivate a political following, but said the Republican Party needs a counter-narrative that paints an optimistic future.
“I think certainly he’s got, you know, a number of people that follow him and are motivated by him and compelled by him because there’s been no competing alternative vision,” he said. “You know, to win a narrative in a party, you have to present a competing alternative narrative. When you only hear from Donald Trump and when people walk around in fear of his tweets or his comments or they use his fear to win reelection, of course, he’s going to motivate people.”
Kinzinger has launched his own group, Country 1st PAC, to push back on Mr. Trump’s wing of the party, and said the GOP needs to look inward to determine how to move the country past its divisions.
“Every party, but now, especially the Republican Party, has to look inside after January 6 and say, what have we become? What’s our great history and how do we go forward from here?” he said. “And I’ll tell you, reaching out to Donald Trump and more of the same is not going to do that.”
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