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US Republicans grapple with way out of political limbo

  • The ex-president however is weighed down with baggage.
Published May 2, 2021
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WASHINGTON: Shut out of the White House and desperate to reclaim power in Congress next year, Republicans are locked in an internal battle over their party's direction, and whether to embrace or jettison the divisive politics of Donald Trump.

One hundred days after Trump's turbulent term gave way to Democratic rule in Washington, Republican lawmakers spent part of the last week in closed-door soul searching at their annual retreat in Florida, struggling to tamp down their conference's extremist personalities and highlight conservative policies they believe will resonate with voters.

The party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan is scrambling to forge a path out of political limbo in the run up to the 2022 midterm elections and ultimately the next presidential race in 2024.

Even if there is GOP appetite for ditching the rhetoric of nativist grievance and moving on from Trump, many Republicans still see him as their party's de facto leader -- although an NBC News poll this week showed Trump's support among Republican voters is slipping.

Trump himself told Fox News last week he is "beyond seriously" considering another White House bid to challenge President Joe Biden, or another Democrat, in 2024.

Such statements are likely to freeze the primary field until Trump announces his political plans, denying the party opportunities to vet and debate the candidates who would otherwise step forward to challenge Democrats for the White House.

Republican strategists and lawmakers themselves acknowledge the party is grappling with how much distance they need to take from Trump and who can lead them back to power.

"Any party that loses a presidential election goes into the wilderness for a while," Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant in Texas, told AFP in a Friday interview.

"When you're in the wilderness you don't have one unified leader," he explained. "But the difference with us is we do have one leader, and it's Trump."

The ex-president however is weighed down with baggage.

His approval ratings have slid, he faces mounting legal woes, and his former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is under federal investigation.

"But Trump's agenda was successful," Mackowiak said.

"There's an emerging consensus that Trumpism without Trump may give us the best opportunity to win in 2024."


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