Wealthy Republican donors were reportedly ready for a big weekend in Palm Beach with the Republican National Committee, chock full of strategizing, power points, and a clear vision to regaining congressional majorities in 2022.
Instead, they received a weekend of misdirection and deflation courtesy of Donald Trump, who delivered the keynote address Saturday night at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But Trump effectively hung over the entire getaway like a dark cloud of grievance, always at the ready to rain on Republicans’ revival parade after he cost them the House, the Senate, and the White House.
In fact, the best framework for assessing the complicating factor of Trump as Republicans try to retake the House and the Senate is viewing it through the lens of the shadow he cast over the January runoff bids of Georgia’s two GOP senators. Try as they might, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue couldn’t escape the pall of Trump’s capriciousness and endless grousing long enough to generate a coherent message that stood separate them from Dear Loser.
Already, Trump is serving as the same foil to GOP efforts in the midterms. He’s competing with them for fundraising, urging his cultists to send their donations to his own Save America PAC instead of “RINOS,” or Republicans in Name Only. Trump currently has $85 million cash on hand to the RNC’s $84 million. He’s bent on making his perceived detractors pay for their disloyalty and demanding primaries that could hobble the GOP in the general election. And he simply cannot get past the fact that he was 2020’s biggest loser long enough to let anyone reimagine the future because, goddess forbid, what if he didn’t dominate that vision.
Politico Playbook reports that the GOP’s top donors went to Palm Beach this weekend “excited to be schmoozed,” eager to meet Trump, and most importantly, expecting to learn how their largesse would help Republicans recapture Congress and ultimately the White House.
“Trump’s speech didn’t do any of that,” writes Politico. One attendee offered this shocker about Trump’s keynote on the final night of the retreat: “It was horrible, it was long and negative.” Gee, never saw that coming. “It was dour. He didn’t talk about the positive things that his administration has done.” Like kill over half a million Americans and counting, we presume.
Trump praised the GOP’s most sociopathic governors, like Florida’s Ron DeSantis and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem. He fawned over one of the GOP’s most prolific disinformation spreaders, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Naturally, he also kneecapped his own sycophantic vice president, Mike Pence; lashed out at Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for failing to deliver the state; and skewered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “dumb son of a bitch” and a “stone cold loser.” McConnell is loathsome, to be sure, but he did manage to win his reelect—a fact that must leave Trump seething with jealousy.
Anyway, very uplifting stuff. So uplifting that Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chief of the GOP Senate campaign arm, delivered a newly conceived award to Trump over the weekend amid his anti-McConnell rant—the NRSC’s “Champion for Freedom Award.” Oh, and speaking of freedom, who could forget to shower praise and adulation on attendees of Trump’s Jan. 6 rally, which preceded the deadly Capitol siege? According to The New York Times, Trump waxed nostalgic about the crowd, “admiring how large it was.” LOL. That crowd was estimated at tens of thousands at most—some 15,000 gathered south of the White House, with another 10,000 assembled outside the formal rally. The 800 or so who ultimately stormed the Capitol wreaked enormous havoc, but as Washington rallies go, the crowd that assembled at Trump’s urging was about as overwhelming as the attendance at his 2016 inauguration.
But bottom line, Trump’s diatribe was just a pitch perfect kickoff to the 2022 cycle. Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of GOP mega donors are pretty sick of it. Party officials are clearly desperate to reap the benefits of Trump’s cult following among working-class Americans, but many of the party’s well-heeled donor class are itching to move on.
“It is very important the Republican Party puts Donald Trump as far into the past as possible,” William Oberndorf, a California investor who has lavished millions on GOP candidates in the past told the Times. Oberndorf pledged that moving forward he was only giving to Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump, which will certainly ease up the pace of his donations. But he also put the onus of Trump’s demise on President Joe Biden, saying Biden would “bear more responsibility than any group of Republican donors” for resurrecting Trump’s future if he fails to win bipartisan support for his legislative initiatives.
Others tried to put some happy spin on the party’s efforts to pick up the pieces following Trump’s loss. “When you lose the White House, you kind of figure it’s going to take a little bit of healing, and I think probably first quarter has hopefully got us moving on a better path,” said Henry Barbour, an influential RNC member from Mississippi. Barbour admitted Trump is still a “big force” in the GOP. “But the party is bigger than any one candidate including Donald Trump,” he added.
Tell that to former Sens. Loeffler and Perdue, who alienated the Georgia suburbs while trying to turn out Trump’s fervent followers in rural swaths of the state. There was just no good way for them to ride Trump’s coattails without getting mired in his crap on the backend.
Now the Republican Party is rerunning that entire experiment in 2022, hoping that it will somehow get better with age. More power to ’em.