Confronted with an unexpected moment of reckoning, some moderate Republicans are pointing out that the party has some important decisions to make about its future:
Are they going to be the party of former President Donald Trump or a party that wins elections?
Are they going to be able to excise the “extremism” in their party that more Republicans are openly talking about?
First test: The first indication of where the party is headed will come this week when Republicans, anticipating they will ultimately hold a slim House majority, choose their nominee for speaker.
Some of the most Trump-aligned lawmakers want Rep. Kevin McCarthy to commit to a more combative stance against the Biden administration. While McCarthy expects to prevail, the unfolding drama will show what he has to sacrifice to keep Republicans in the House on the same page. CNN reported Monday that Trump has been quietly working to shore up support for McCarthy.
Moving beyond extremism: Two moderate Republican governors who will be handing over their jobs to Democrats next year are speaking out about how their party failed in a year when it should have romped.
“Voters, generally speaking, especially in battleground states, aren’t interested in extremism. They just aren’t,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview that aired Monday on “The Lead.” Baker, who will be replaced by Democratic attorney general Maura Healey in January, said Trump’s influence hurt Republicans on Election Day and is driving people from the party.
Third strike for Trump: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, long a Trump critic, was more unvarnished in his criticism during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Commonsense conservatives that focused on talking about issues people cared about, like the economy and crime and education, they did win,” Hogan told Dana Bash. “But people who tried to relitigate the 2020 election and focused on conspiracy theories and talked about things the voters didn’t care about, they were almost universally rejected.”
In that regard, American voters were sophisticated, splitting tickets to elect Republicans in certain races and Democrats in others.
Hogan, who will be replaced by Democrat Wes Moore in January, said this is the third straight election Trump has cost Republicans. “It’s like three strikes, you’re out,” he said, adding, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. And Donald Trump kept saying, ‘We’re going to be winning so much, we will get tired of winning.’ I’m tired of losing. I mean, that’s all he’s done.”
Others are not quite as direct, even if they’re saying some similar things.