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The Arizona GOP’s combative focus has delighted Trump’s staunchest supporters and worried Republican insiders who have watched the party lose ground in the suburbs as the influence of its traditional conservative establishment has faded in favor of Trump. A growing electorate of young Latinos and newcomers bringing their more liberal politics from back home have further hurt the GOP.

“This is a time for choosing for Republicans. Are we going to be the conservative party?” said Kirk Adams, a former state House speaker and chief of staff to Ducey. “Or is this a party … that’s loyal to a single person?”

It’s a question of Republican identity that party officials and activists are facing across the country following Trump’s 2020 loss, and particularly after a mob of his supporters laid siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Nowhere is the question more acute than Arizona, where the state GOP’s unflinching loyalty to Trump stands out even in a party that’s been remade everywhere in the image of the former president.

Ward has relentlessly — but unsuccessfully — sued to overturn the election results. The party has used its social media accounts to urge followers to fight and perhaps even to die in support of Trump’s false claims of victory. Two of the state’s four Republican congressmen are accused of playing a role in organizing the Jan. 6 rally that turned violent.

After dominating Arizona politics for decades, Republicans now find themselves on their heels in the state’s highest offices. President Joe Biden narrowly eked out a victory here, becoming just the second Democrat in more than five decades to win the state. Consecutive victories in 2018 and 2020 gave Democrats control of both U.S. Senate seats for the first time in nearly 70 years.

Ward, a physician and former state legislator who lost two Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate, defeated three challengers to win a second term.

In a brief interview, Ward acknowledged “disappointment at the top of the ticket” but said she and many other Republicans still question the results showing victories for Biden and Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Judges have rejected eight lawsuits challenging Arizona’s election results.

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Ward pointed to GOP successes down the ballot, noting Republicans defied expectations in local races.

Ward said she’s a “Trump Republican” who will “always put America first, who believes in faith, family and freedom.” The way forward for the GOP, she said, is keeping Trump’s 74 million voters engaged.

“Yes, I will be radical about those things because those are the things that keep this country great,” Ward said. “The people who are complaining are the people who actually put us in this spot where we are in Arizona, people who have been mamby pamby, lie down and allow the Democrats to walk all over them.”

The censures target some of Arizona’s most prominent Republicans,

Cindy McCain endorsed Biden and became a powerful surrogate for the Democrat following years of attacks by Trump on her husband. After the vote, she wrote on Twitter that “it is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well.”

“I’ll wear this as a badge of honor,” she wrote.

Also after the vote, Flake tweeted a photo of him with McCain and Ducey at Biden’s inauguration and wrote: “Good company.”

Flake was one of the few congressional Republicans who was openly critical of Trump for failing to adhere to conservative values. He declined to run for reelection in 2018 and endorsed Biden in last year’s election.

“If condoning the President’s behavior is required to stay in the Party’s good graces, I’m just fine being on the outs,” Flake wrote on Twitter before and after the vote.

Ducey is being targeted for his restrictions on individuals and businesses to contain the spread of COVID-19. While it’s not mentioned in the proposed censure, he had a high-profile break with the president when he signed the certification of Biden’s victory.

“These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever and the people behind them have lost whatever little


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Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House

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President Biden has brought back bipartisan meetings at the White House that diminished under his predecessor, trying to find common ground with Republicans even as they remain far apart on issues related to the next round of coronavirus relief.

Biden’s first meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office was with Republican senators on the coronavirus proposal and he has since met with bipartisan members of Congress on infrastructure and, later, supply chain issues. Biden’s outreach to Republicans has also extended beyond Capitol Hill to governors and local leaders as his administration grapples with the coronavirus and recent winter storms in southern states.

The meetings are another example of a return to more traditional governing under Biden and he is expected to make them a regular occurrence.

White House spokesman Michael Gwin said that the president is “glad to welcome lawmakers from both parties to the White House to work towards finding common ground on the challenges we face, and he’ll continue to do so throughout his time in office.”

“Biden’s brand is bringing people together, so it’s always helpful for him to remind voters that he’s trying to unite,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “For now, it helps him stay above the fray.”

While Biden is making an effort to reach across the aisle, the real test will be whether that engagement yields any results. Discussions with Republicans on COVID-19 relief have brought both sides no closer to a compromise. Democrats have pushed ahead to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal using budget reconciliation, creating tensions with Republicans.

“There are clearly issues where there is bipartisan consensus, but it requires presidential leadership and political capital to prevent the far left or far right from stopping it,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former spokesman in George W. Bush’s White House.

Biden’s effort to work across the aisle is reflective of his campaign trail pledge to be a unifier and a “president for all Americans.”

“He’s said he wants Republicans at the table from the very beginning,” said one longtime Biden adviser. “You can’t campaign on that for a year and a half and then not do it.”

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The adviser said Biden’s aim has always been to tone down the rhetoric and “break the fever.”

“Making them the opposition and not the enemy, that’s part of the deal,” the adviser said. “Part of the goal is normalizing talking to them. That is also a message that he’s sending not just to Republicans, but to Democrats, as well.

“He’s not under the illusion that we’ll get 67 votes, but this is how policymaking works,” the adviser continued, adding that Biden is a “creature of the Senate.”

Biden has forecast plans to pass a recovery and infrastructure package and Democrats have also introduced an immigration proposal on Capitol Hill, presenting his next tests to work with Republicans. Biden would need Republicans to join Democrats in order to pass an immigration overhaul.

In addition to Biden’s contacts, the White House says officials remain in constant contact with Republican offices on Capitol Hill and in the states.

Biden’s first meeting with GOP senators on Feb. 1 was cordial, according to participants, but Biden has remained committed to his $1.9 trillion relief proposal, which Republicans view as too expensive.

Biden’s outreach continued as he met with a bipartisan group of senators on Feb. 11 about infrastructure and, this week, with 11 lawmakers, including six Republicans, about addressing vulnerabilities in supply chains. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas.), who met with Biden on a trip to storm-stricken Texas on Friday, described the meeting as “very positive.”

“The political process has its ups and downs, and I’m hoping that this is an opportunity for us to do something truly important in a bipartisan way,” said Cornyn. “So far, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill is being passed strictly along party lines. I think that’s unfortunate.”
(Hill)

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Trump’s baseless election claims march GOP into ‘policy wasteland’

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In Georgia, where Democrats not only beat Trump in November but flipped the U.S. Senate in the runoff elections, the Republican-controlled state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill requiring an ID when requesting an absentee ballot. The following day, it was a bonanza across the country. The Iowa House passed a bill designed to limit early voting. In Missouri, the Republican-controlled House passed legislation that would require a photo ID at the polls, while a legislative committee in Wyoming moved forward with a similar bill.

The Brennan Center for Justice is tracking more than 250 bills to restrict voting by lawmakers in 43 states.

Benjamin Ginsberg, an elections lawyer who has represented past Republican presidential nominees, lamented the death of the “ideas factory” in the GOP.

“Tell me what the innovative Republican policies have been of late?” he said. The focus on re-litigating the last election is “probably a sign that the Republican Party is mired in a bit of a policy wasteland and doesn’t know which way to turn to get out.”

Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, said “all Americans should be concerned about election integrity.” But with no evidence of widespread fraud beyond normal irregularities, he said, the focus by some in the GOP on the last election is a “big distraction” from issues that are more pressing to the electorate.

“I think it’s a big distraction,” Gonzales said. “And I worry that it will continue to be a big distraction as long as a certain individual makes statements that it was stolen.”

There is nothing to suggest that Trump, who will speak at the convention on Sunday, is letting go — or that the party’s rank- and-file is prepared to pivot away from his claims that the election was stolen from him, despite more than 60 losses in election lawsuits

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challenging the presidential election.

It hasn’t always been this way in the Republican Party. Last year, CPAC’s theme was “America vs. socialism.” The year before that, there were no fewer than three panels focusing on the challenges posed by a rising China. This year, CPAC did not go off without an airing of the party’s greatest hits: trade, China, immigration and abortion. And there were shoutouts for Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand. But the fallout from November was the main fixture — in the Republicans’ frustration at de-platforming and the seven-part exploration of “protecting elections.”

In part, the party’s lack of a more forward-looking posture is a function of its sudden dearth of power in Washington. The GOP is settling in as an opposition party — with conservatives constituting what Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas described at CPAC as “the Rebel Alliance.” But there is little room for innovative, policy-focused conservative thought in a party so in thrall to one leader — a leader obsessed with the notion that he lost in a rigged election.

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Ken Khachigian, a former aide to Richard Nixon and chief speechwriter for Reagan, said the Republican Party today doesn’t have “a singular voice like they had with Reagan, for example, or Bill Buckley, the movement conservatives who could get up on a stage and move everyone the way Jack Kemp did back in the day.”

“There’s always hope,” Khachigian said, suggesting that “when you have nitwits like AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] on the other side, it’s not hard to come up with somebody.”

But the backward-looking focus on November and its fallout, he said, is “shooting blanks.”

It may come at a cost. As the Republican Party prepares for the midterm elections and the next presidential primary, it’s doing so as a shell of itself, having lost the White House and both houses of Congress in the span of four years. The last time it carried the popular vote in a presidential election was 2004, and America’s shifting demographics are making it increasingly unlikely that it will do so in 2024 — regardless of attempts to raise barriers to voting.

“It is a party that has been fashioned in the mold of Trump — Trump’s message, Trump’s tactics — and it is perfectly comfortable being a party that is defined by what it’s against,” said Kevin Madden, a former Mitt Romney adviser.

The difficulty for the party, Madden said, is “you become almost toxic as a party brand to larger, growing parts of the electorate. … The limitation of a message and a platform that’s just about disagreeing with the opposition is that it doesn’t speak to the broader concerns or anxieties of a big part of the electorate.”

It’s possible that the party’s fixation on election fraud and on the perceived silencing of those who tried to overturn the outcome will fade. Trump’s effort to contest the election postponed the traditional, post-election period of mourning for the losing party. And because a majority of Republicans still approve of Trump and believe the election wasn’t free or fair, there is a political imperative for the party to mollify them.

Sal Russo, a former Reagan aide and Tea Party Express co-founder, said that “sometimes you’ve got to give some deference to where your base wants to go. … Do I think the Republicans have to get over the election process issues? Yes, because you don’t win on ‘we’re going to tighten up absentee ballot eligibility.’ It doesn’t turn out to vote.”

“I think there’s a catharsis that has to happen,” he said, adding that “it’s probably a good thing that CPAC is spending a lot of time” on the subject.


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Trump Will Run Again In Part To Fleece The ‘Rubes,’ Predicts Anthony Scaramucci

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Donald Trump’s extremely short-term communications director and former friend Anthony Scaramucci speculated Saturday that Trump will run for president again in part to fleece the “rubes.”

“I think he’s going to run in 2024 because this is the most money that he’s ever made,” Scaramucci told Alex Witt on MSNBC.

“Just imagine making $300 million off of these rubes that he’s conning after the election with his big lie” that the vote was rigged, Scaramucci added. “So he’ll run again in 2024.”

Trump pulled in at least $255 million in political donations ostensibly to battle the results of the presidential vote in the eight weeks following the 2020 election, according to the latest federal filings.

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Will Trump “go to the finish line? Maybe not,” Scaramucci said. “There are 10 or 12 Republicans that see themselves as a future president. They’re going to try to find ways to undermine him … So I don’t know if he gets to the finish line. But why would he not run and raise money off the rubes that he’s raising money from” now?
(HuffPost)

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