Anyone looking for Republican reactions to Donald Trump’s announcement of a third presidential campaign may have been surprised by the silence.
There was, to be sure, a vocal contingent celebrating Trump’s entry into the 2024 race. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Mary Miller of Illinois and Troy Nehls of Texas quickly endorsed him; Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio also indicated they were on board. Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas tweeted his support five times in 80 minutes Tuesday and added Wednesday, “I WILL BE VOTING FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP IN 2024!!!!!!”
But these voices stood out precisely because so few of their colleagues echoed them.
On social media, most congressional Republicans were talking about almost anything else: inflation, border policy, NASA’s Artemis moon rocket launch, the military’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, the 115th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood, the need to recycle asphalt. Inside the Capitol, the focus was on the meetings in which Senate Republicans were choosing leaders, and House Republicans had just chosen theirs — both groups reeling from disappointing election results for which many of them blamed Trump.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she was not paying attention to Trump, given that her race for reelection had not yet been determined.
And Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, who has been a strong Trump ally and was elected in 2018 in large part because of that support, said he had not listened to “one word” of the former president’s announcement speech.
“I hope a lot of other people get in, we have choices, and that they all duke it out,” Cramer said. “He’s not entitled to the job. None of us are entitled to these jobs. We have to earn them every single time. In his case, I expect it will be a hard-fought battle.”
Outright rejection of Trump was not widespread either, coming mostly from longtime critics of his such as Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — who voted to impeach him and serves on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack — and Govs. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Larry Hogan of Maryland, who have expressed interest in running for president themselves. National Review, a conservative magazine that has often criticized Trump, ran an editorial with a one-word headline: “No.”
“If we want to start winning, we need a new leader,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials.
But beyond the expected reactions from his die-hard supporters and anti-Trump Republicans, the silence made clear that for the time being, at least, there was little interest at the highest levels of the party in embracing him as its continued leader.
Still, no one has ever made money betting that a Republican break from Trump would last.
Perhaps no Republican embodies that leave-and-return pattern more than Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who denounced Trump during the 2016 campaign, embraced him during his presidency, denounced him after the Jan. 6 attack and then embraced him once more. Graham said after last week’s election that Trump shouldn’t announce his campaign before the Georgia runoffs and then changed tack once again Tuesday night.
“If President Trump continues this tone and delivers this message on a consistent basis, he will be hard to beat,” Graham wrote on Twitter, though Trump’s tone and message were little changed from the ones that lost him the 2020 election and dragged down his candidates in 2022. “His speech tonight, contrasting his policies and results against the Biden Administration, charts a winning path for him in the primaries and general election.”