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Bow to Trump?  GOP brings leaders and donors to its garden

There will be no account at the Republican National Committee.

Three months after former President Donald Trump helped incite a violent attack on Congress, the GOP is bringing hundreds of donors and several future presidential prospects to the former president’s doorstep in South Florida. While a handful of Republican leaders hope to overtake Trump’s divisive leadership, the venue for the invitation-only meeting suggests that the party, at least for now, is not ready to replace Trump as the undisputed and main leader. fundraiser.

Trump himself will headline the closed-door donor retreat, which is designed to raise millions of dollars for the GOP’s political arm while giving donors exclusive access to the party’s evolving group of perspectives. 2024 and congressional leaders. The weekend’s event will take place at a luxury beachfront hotel just four miles from Trump’s Estate in Florida, where the former president’s allies will simultaneously host their own fundraising events.

“The location of the quarterly meeting as well as Trump’s keynote address to CPAC shows that the party is still very much in the grip of Trump,” said one of the guests, GOP donor Dan Eberhart, referring to the Trump’s February speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando Florida. “The party does not appear to have the capacity to match the escape speed of its former standard bearer.”

Trump’s continued grip on Republican donors and elected officials ensures that Trumpism will remain the driving force behind GOP policy indefinitely, even as Trump repeats the lie that fueled the January 6 insurgency. In several public statements and appearances since his departure, as recently as last weekend, Trump has said the 2020 election has been “stolen” from him.

There is no evidence of material voter fraud. In fact, several Republican governors and senior Trump administration officials vouched for the integrity of President Joe Biden’s victory. Trump’s legal demands have been categorically rejected by the courts, including by Trump-appointed Supreme Court judges.

But in the absence of a coherent party message after the loss of Trump, a clear political platform, or a coherent strategy to broaden the appeal of the GOP, senior Republican officials and the RNC have increasingly adopted electoral fraud as a top political priority.

The lineup of the weekend rally notably excludes all major Republicans who rejected Trump’s claims or supported his impeachment. Those who should not appear include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican No.3 Liz Cheney, Utah Senator Mitt Romney or Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Rather, the rally will feature Trump himself and a large number of candidates already positioning themselves for a 2024 presidential candidacy, assuming Trump himself is not running. Potential White House contenders include Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are also expected to speak.

The weekend agenda will focus on party unity and how to expand the GOP, with sessions scheduled on the topics.

Henry Barbour, a member of the RNC, who helps run the committee’s small fundraising apparatus, suggested the retreat was not held in Palm Beach to respond to Trump. He noted that such events usually take place in states such as Florida, New York, California and Texas.

With the COVID restrictions, Barbour said: “The RNC has limited options.”

“We are not in Florida to be able to bow down to Donald Trump. No one needs to bow down to Donald Trump, ”Barbour said in an interview. “He is certainly an important part of Republican fundraising, but the party has to be bigger and larger than any candidate.”

The RNC has booked the entire Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach for the weekend get-together, and there will be donor events at the neighboring Trump estate in Mar-a-Lago to raise funds for focused groups. on Trump’s political future and political priorities.

At the same time, a handful of prominent Trump allies – including besieged Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and besieged Florida Representative Matt Gaetz – will attend a weekend conference at Trump Doral Golf Club. 70 miles south of Miami. The host organization, Women for America First, helped organize the January 6 rally that preceded the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Former RNC staffer Tim Miller, who has become one of Trump’s top critics in recent years, lamented the GOP’s continued comfort with the former president, even after his role in the insurgency.

“There was a real opportunity in this three-month window, Jan.6 to today, for the party to make a concerted effort to say, ‘It’s time to move on,’” Miller said. to do this. That is the party. “

And while the GOP embraces Trump, it’s not clear that Trump is embracing the GOP.

Just over a month ago, Trump’s Political Action Committee sent letters to the RNC and others asking them to “stop immediately and renounce unauthorized use of name, image and / or the likeness of President Donald J. Trump in any fundraising, persuasion and / or speaking. “

GOP officials have repeatedly tried to downplay tensions over fundraising and to see Trump’s involvement as a sign that he is ready to lend his name to the party. At the same time, Trump continues to aggressively accumulate campaign money – money that the RNC, or the party’s next presidential candidate, does not control – including the relaunch this week of his store. goods online.

Former Trump aide Hogan Gidley suggested Trump was more powerful than ever.

“People in DC, inside the Beltway, think Donald Trump is radioactive,” Gidley said. “The Republican Party has grown, and it’s thanks to the successes of Donald Trump. To ignore that, you do it at your own risk.”

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