The GOP's refusal to reckon with Trump is already hurting their chances of taking back the House
In a new piece, the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reports on the congressional GOP’s fearful refusal to reckon with their massive election night loss, an abdication of responsibility largely fomented by Donald Trump, whom no Republican wants to publicly criticize in any truthful post-mortem. This cult of personality is not only making it impossible for Republicans to correct their course, but it also seems to be dissuading comeback attempts and might even send some members into early retirement.
Rep. David Young offers one such example. Young was narrowly turfed out of his seat in Iowa’s 3rd District last month by Democrat Cindy Axne, who beat him by a 49-47 margin. In theory, he’d be a pretty decent candidate to try again in 2020, but he doesn’t sound keen. In talking to Martin, Young bemoaned the “Trump effect” on his race and explained, “That’s why you see a lot of people, myself included—who are asked: ‘Are you going to do it again?’—saying: ‘I’m just going to wait and watch.'”
It’s not clear which other soon-to-be-former representatives Young has in mind, but Martin spoke with one sitting Republican who didn’t lose in 2018 who might nevertheless call it quits over his exhaustion with Trump. That’s Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who represents his state’s conservative 16th District, which supported Trump by a wide 56-38 margin. Kinzinger called Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his party’s defeat “disgusting,” and even compared his reaction unfavorably to Obama’s after Democrats lost the House in 2010.
That kind of apostasy alone could be enough to draw a primary challenge, but Kinzinger may not even let it get that far. All he’d say about his re-election plans is, “I fully intend to run again,” which, as we’ll never tire of pointing out, is an entirely different formulation than saying, “I will run again.” Martin further notes that unnamed “colleagues” cite Kinzinger as a “potential retiree,” even though he’s only 40 years old and, with his service as an Air Force pilot in both Iraq and Afghanistan, had long looked like a rising star. But Trump, it seems, is causing a lot of these stars to dim.