Non-Trump Republican moderate governors are disappearing from the political scene

WASHINGTON — Governors, traditionally isolated from national politics, are among the last bases of Republican elected leaders able to maneuver around former President Donald Trump.

But maybe not for long.

Trump is stepping up his involvement in the chief of staff primaries, seeking to set an example for critics within his own party and raise allies ahead of a potential presidential run-in. 2024 – like some of those elected before the former president took over the GOP are reaching their term limits.

The possible outcome, critics say, is that candidates who are not elected in the races could win and the purge of some Republican elected leaders who don’t need to depend into Trump’s establishment, critics say.

“It’s bad for the party, and it’s bad for the country,” Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan, who is leaving office next year and taking office, said in an interview. “Those who I think are the good Republicans we need in the party are being unfairly criticized because they won’t swear allegiance to the Dear Leader.”

The famous Massachusetts government Charlie Baker announced last month that he would not run for re-election after Trump confirmed a key GOP challenger. Government of Arizona Doug Ducey, who has resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, has term limits. Vermont Governor Phil Scott, who greatly expanded vote by mail in opposition to Trump, has not yet said whether he will run for re-election despite being announced The most famous governor in America.

Even conservatives who align with the national GOP on policy have faced Trump’s anger. Ohio government Mike DeWine, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Idaho Governor Brad Little are both facing key Trump-backed opponents – despite what Trump calls Little “a great gentleman“At an event at Mar-a-Lago a week before he endorsed his opponent.

Anti-Trump Republicans insist the party’s battle for the soul is not over.

“Republican governors in blue states consistently have the highest approval ratings,” said Hogan, who plans to travel the country supporting the candidates Trump has targeted. “We need more people with broader appeal who can actually win races.”

Hogan is a frequent critic of Trump. And his departure has sparked speculation that he might run for another job, including whether he could bid for the presidency on his own.

Moderate Republicans have a track record of winning governors in states that might never vote for a Republican president, especially in tough years for Democrats like these. shape to become.

Hogan worries that his party now risks throwing out a winning formula that will not only make the governors of Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont Republican, but also make them three of them. popular consistency elected officials in the country.

To replace him, Hogan is backing his former commerce secretary, Kelly Schulz, while Trump has lined up behind Del. Dan Cox, who helped arrange the bus to the January 6 rally at the Capitol and summon Former Vice President Mike Pence is a “traitor.”

“There is no way he can win a general election. It’s not in a state where we’re more than two against one,” former Maryland Lieutenant Colonel and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who considered entering the gubernatorial race himself, said of Cox.

Cox so far lift up less than $350,000, while Schulz brought in $1.5 million and the leading Democratic candidate raised nearly $5 million.

The famously liberal Massachusetts has been ruled by a Republican for 22 of the past 30 years, including future national leaders like Mitt Romney, Paul Cellucci, and Bill Weld.

Baker, despite his healthy approval ratings, announced last month that he would not seek a third term after Trump called him “RINO” – Republicans just by name – and endorsed the former congressman. Geoff Diehl, who fought against Baker in a GOP primaries.

Baker insists his decision has nothing to do with Trump. But moderate Republicans are struggle to find an alternative candidate and thinks Diehl has little chance of winning in November. He won only 36% in the 2018 Senate race against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

In Nevada, a state Trump has lost twice, all eight Republican candidates have self-aligning with the former president – a far cry from the last Republican governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, who supported abortion rights, immigration reform and efforts to combat climate change and very popular no significant Democrats even bother to fight him.

“We had to draw the line because otherwise we would lose the race,” Steele said. “There is more and more effort and resistance to this, those of us who want to save our party from ourselves… And I think the party can withdraw on its own, hopefully, get out. off the cliff, with leadership from these governors. ”

However, conservatives point out that the popularity of moderate Republican governors is often fueled by Democrats and independents – not members of their own party. For example, only 41 percent of Massachusetts Republicans endorse Baker, compared with 65 percent of Democrats, according to one survey. UMass / WCVB Poll.

Conservatives say it’s time for their values ​​to be expressed.

“I applaud Geoff Diehl for his support of our party and his unwavering commitment to conservative principles,” said GOP State President Jim Lyons. “It’s been an exciting time to be a Republican in Massachusetts.”

Both sides claim to have recently elected Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin as their man and see him as a role model.

Conservatives say he has successfully run culture war issues such as banning Critical Race Theory in schools and maintaining a good relationship with the former president, saying he has proven that public can operate in a state that has not elected a Republican since 2009.

“I want to thank my BASE for going into effect and voting for Glenn Youngkin. Without you, he wouldn’t be close to victory,” Trump said in a statement after Youngkin’s win.

Youngkin’s Democratic opponent tried to run the race on Trump, running ads and sending drive-in mailers the message the former president espoused to him.

Meanwhile, non-Trump Republicans say Youngkin won only by keeping the former president, persuading him to stay out of state and present himself as a sensible father and capable manager. more powerful than a MAGA warrior.

“The way to not talk about Trump is to support him, but not really talk about it. Youngkin did it,” said a Republican strategist involved in the gubernatorial races, who requested anonymity to speak frankly.

“You can’t do that if your brand is just anti-Trump,” the strategist continued. “And if you say you don’t want to talk about Trump, your race will be on Trump only. It’s a damn-if-you-do, damn-if-you-don’t kind of thing. ” Non-Trump Republican moderate governors are disappearing from the political scene

Jake Nichol

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