Nearly a week after the Senate acquitted former President Trump of inciting insurrection, Mr. Trump’s grip on the Republican Party remains firm.
Eight out of 10 Republicans still view him favorably, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll, even after seven Republican senators voted “guilty” and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell chastised the ex-president for his behavior leading to the January 6 riot.
Republicans who cross the former president do so at their own political risk.
State and local GOP committees have taken measures to censure some of the seven Republicans who voted to convict the former president. And McConnell was on the receiving end of a string of insults from Mr. Trump, who called him a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.”
On Wednesday, the ex-president did a round of cable news interviews to mark the death of conservative talk radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh. As he reminisced about Limbaugh on Fox News, he segued to the election he had lost. “Rush thought we won and so do I, by the way. I think we won substantially.”
Again that night on Newsmax, Mr. Trump declared, “It was a stolen, fixed, rigged election.”
To get a sense of GOP senators’ loyalty to the former president, CBS News contacted all 50 Republican Senate offices Wednesday night and Thursday with a simple question: Do you agree with President Trump that he — and not Joe Biden — won the November election?
Five offices replied. Forty-five ignored the inquiry.
Spokespeople for Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania answered that they do not share Mr. Trump’s view and believe Mr. Biden to be the duly elected president.
A spokesperson for Texas Senator John Cornyn did not answer the question directly but pointed to a letter the senator had released January 5, a day before the Capitol riot.
Cornyn wrote then that he would not object to the Electoral College count and recognized the election outcome as legitimate. “I am disappointed by the election results. Any one person’s disappointment, however, cannot and should not override the legitimate votes of millions of Americans.”
Republicans will defend 20 Senate seats in 2022. Of the five members who responded, only Moran faces reelection. Toomey plans to retire.
The only Republican senator up for reelection in 2022 who voted to convict Mr. Trump was Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and her state just reformed its election process. Alaska voters passed a ballot measure in November that ensures the top four candidates in the primary advance to the general election and creates ranked-choice voting in the general election. Because the top candidates advance regardless of party — rather than the system in which one Republican and one Democrat competes in the general election — ranked-choice systems tend to give moderate candidates an advantage. The new rules mean that Mr. Trump’s influence, were he to support Murkowski’s primary challenger(s), would be diluted.
CBS News also asked the senators whether they support Mitch McConnell as minority leader.
McConnell has faced friendly fire from colleagues like Trump loyalist Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin GOP senator who told a radio interviewer McConnell ought to “zip his lips.”
All five senators who responded said they support McConnell.
So what happened to the other 45 members of the Senate Republican conference?
Joe Biden is president, and most Senate Republicans who didn’t respond to CBS News have already acknowledged that. But the fact that they are not speaking out even as Mr. Trump continues to claim he won the election – which the majority of the Senate believes led to the armed insurrection — is a sign of the former president’s enduring political clout.