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World

Republican ex-centrist Stefanik rises on embrace of Trump

  • "We are going to run as an alternative to the Biden agenda," she added.
09 May 2021

WASHINGTON: US politician Elise Stefanik began her Washington career as a moderate, but has changed tack and surged in influence to likely become the most powerful Republican woman in Congress -- a trajectory she owes entirely to her staunch defence of Donald Trump.

Stefanik, just 36 and in Congress for six years, is aiming to oust principled conservative Liz Cheney as House Republican conference chair, a dramatic change of course that concedes the extraordinary shift that is shaping the party's future around the defeated president.

Political scion Cheney, daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, is on the verge of being punished for refusing to buy into what she calls Trump's "BIG LIE" that election fraud caused his 2020 defeat to Joe Biden.

The Wyoming conservative's adherence to election truth appears to be apostasy in Trump's remade Republican Party, and its members are expected to vote her out of her number three leadership post as early as Wednesday during a scheduled meeting.

Their argument: the party requires solidarity rather than Cheney's persistent public denunciations of Trump as it seeks to win back the House and Senate majorities in next year's midterm elections.

Stefanik, a Harvard graduate representing an upstate New York district, has stressed party unity and her unstinting loyalty to Trump as she campaigns for the powerful role.

She ticks several important boxes: aside from being a woman, she can connect with millennials and voters on the US East Coast, demographics with which Republicans have traditionally struggled.

Trump himself has endorsed her for the post, as has number two House Republican Steve Scalise, making her the clear frontrunner.

"My vision is to run with support from the president and his coalition of voters," Stefanik told Steve Bannon, a former Trump White House aide, on his Thursday radio show when asked about her plans for helping the GOP win in 2022.

"We are going to run as an alternative to the Biden agenda," she added.

"I'm committed to being a voice and sending a clear message that we are one team, and that means working with the (former) president and working with all of our excellent Republican members of Congress."

Stefanik's rise is emblematic of how advancing in the party no longer requires adherence to fiscal conservative values or muscular foreign policy, but fealty to a controversial former president who still drives the direction of the Republican Party.