Following his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, Donald Trump is attempting to take complete control over the Republican Party, foreshadowing the strongman rule he envisions for his potential second term.
The former president is attempting to frighten Nikki Haley into dropping out of the Republican presidential race. He is warning contributors who support the former South Carolina governor that they would be shunned. Trump’s supporters began a campaign to startle the Republican National Committee into naming him the presumptive nominee after only two nominating races, but Trump backtracked due to concerns from his allies that it might backfire.
And the 45th president is now urging Republican members of Congress to vote against an immigration compromise in order to deny President Joe Biden a victory and allow him to exploit the border crisis on the campaign trail. Trump has also been browbeating old opponents and important GOP decision-makers to rapidly back him, forcing the party to bow down before him as he did during his four years in the White House.
Trump’s brisk assertion of his expanding status as the presumptive nominee is a typical breach of limitations that mirrors his behavior in government. He was impeached twice during his sole administration, which ended when he attempted to invalidate an election in which people removed him from office. It is compatible with Trump’s self-created character as the strongest person in the room, which has carried him through a career in business, reality television, and as an ex-president.
Trump’s behavior has raised new concerns among his adversaries that his probable second term will usher in an era of authoritarianism in the White House. And Trump’s effort to force Haley out of the race after only two races – even though he leads in the delegate count 32 to 17, out of the 1,215 required for the GOP nomination – is consistent with his contempt for democratic procedures.
The former president is not disguising his intentions. He has repeatedly warned, for example, that he will use his second term to inflict “retribution” on his adversaries. Almost every day, he demands absolute criminal immunity for presidents, partially to avoid prosecution for his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, but also to allow him to do whatever he wants in a possible second term without fear of repercussions.
In a rally Saturday night in Manchester, New Hampshire, that pulsated with forceful imagery, the ex-president complimented Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as a “great man.” Orbán has gradually destroyed political freedoms, suppressed the independent press, and discredited the election system, judiciary, and other institutions of authority. Many supporters of “Make America Great Again” consider him a hero and a role model. “Some people dislike him because he is too forceful. “It’s good to have a strong man leading a country,” Trump reflected. His comments reinforced the notion that Orbán may be a better model for the authoritarian leader that the ex-president aspires to be than the harsh 1930s European tyrants with whom his recent language, particularly toward immigration, has been compared.
Trump’s impatience is creating political risks for his campaign.
The previous president’s dictatorial tendencies are one reason why the upcoming election looks to be one of the most pivotal in modern American history.
However, Trump’s aggressive approach carries hazards. By putting his weight around, he might back up Biden’s claims that if elected for a second term in November, he would jeopardize democracy. And his aggressive tactics and misogynistic words toward Haley risk alienating some of the more moderate, independent, suburban voters she’s attracting in the GOP primary. These are precisely the voters that Trump alienated during his 2020 setback. If he is to win another term, he must at least close the gap to Biden among this group in November.
In an interview with Kasie Hunt on “State of the Race” on CNN International and CNN Max on Thursday, Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina GOP chairman, mentioned the potential ramifications of Trump’s behavior. Dawson, one of the few Palmetto State GOP heavyweights who supports Haley, warned that Trump’s “seedy little comments about what Nikki was wearing” will “polarize” women in South Carolina. He went on to say: “Donald Trump is running more like he wants to be the President of Cuba instead of the President of the United States.”
Haley might not have defeated Trump in Iowa or New Hampshire. However, she irritated him by refusing to promptly fold her campaign and endorse him, as did other Republican contenders such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. Trump’s rage was evident in a self-centered victory address in New Hampshire on Tuesday night. Haley’s ridicule of the performance enraged the former president even more.
“We did our thing and said what we had to say, and then Donald Trump got out there and just threw a temper tantrum,” Haley said in Charleston on Wednesday. “He had a fit. He was insulting. He was doing what he always does, but I know he does it when he’s insecure.”
According to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Trump appears to be very unhappy that Haley is refusing to withdraw from the race. During his New Hampshire rally, he criticized the clothing she wore on Iowa caucus night. He’s been calling her “birdbrain” on social media. Trump has also warned that anyone who donates to her will be “barred from the MAGA camp,” which Haley has used as a fundraising pitch for her campaign.
It is not unexpected that there have been calls for Haley to abandon her campaign, given the magnitude of her losses to Trump and the reality that New Hampshire, where independents can vote in the GOP primary, was her best chance at victory. When the outcome of the primary battle is clear, parties tend to unite quickly around a nominee in order to prepare for a general election. However, the Trump administration’s contempt for Haley is striking.
For example, even before all the ballots closed on Tuesday night, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, one of Trump’s top supporters, published a statement declaring Haley’s campaign “must end” following the ex-president’s “monumental” triumph “for the sake of the republic.” The experience of previous campaigns suggests that caution and respect may be more successful than threats in convincing Haley to drop out of the contest. And, while her prospects are bleak, the notion that a candidate should terminate a race after only two contests in a countrywide primary season simply because the front-runner says so is an affront to the democratic process.
Even Trump seems to believe that some of this has gone too far. The former president spoke out on Thursday against an RNC draft resolution declaring him the presumptive nominee, which would have given him access to the RNC’s data and fundraising operations. It would have effectively allied the party’s forces with Trump while an election involving an opponent was still ongoing.
However, Trump stated on Truth Social that, while he appreciated the RNC’s “respect and devotion,” he preferred to win the “old-fashioned way,” at the vote box. While the campaign initially supported the resolution and Trump himself agreed, that changed after a backlash, according to a source familiar with the situation. The resolution was removed later on Thursday.
Trump seeks to squash immigration deal.
The former president, whose business career was mythologized in “The Art of the Deal,” is more concerned currently with the art of killing a deal – one being painfully pieced together by Republican and Democratic senators to address a southern border crisis. Trump has been lobbying Republicans in both private conversations and public statements on social media to oppose the deal because he wants to campaign on the issue this year and ensure Biden doesn’t get a legislative victory that could ease pressure at the border and help his reelection, sources said.
Trump’s maneuvering has infuriated some GOP senators looking for a deliverable for their voters at a moment when Biden appears willing to accept the return of some hardline Trump-era immigration policies in a compromise. Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana called any efforts to disrupt the ongoing negotiations “tragic.” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a frequent Trump antagonist who’s not running for reelection, said that if Trump sabotaged the deal just to blame Biden, it would be “appalling.” Trump and his acolytes on Capitol Hill have also made clear their opposition to Biden’s latest $60 billion aid package for Ukraine, which is running out of bullets and ammunition.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has been heavily involved in both the immigration and Ukraine discussions, raised concerns that the looming shadow of one man – who doesn’t currently hold any governing role – could overwhelm a branch of the US government.
“I hope we don’t live in a world today in which one person inside the Republican Party holds so much power that they could stop a bipartisan bill to try to give the president additional power at the border to make more sense of our immigration policy,” Murphy told CNN’s Manu Raju.
“I would hope that one person isn’t so powerful inside the Republican Party to hand Ukraine to Vladimir Putin, but we’ll find out the answer to that.”