Trump revels in the GOP’s loyalty to him. Tim Ryan wants to use it against them.

It’s one thing for former President Donald Trump to exert his dominance over the Republican Party, which he unquestionably does. It’s quite another for Trump to regularly rub this in Republicans’ faces and force them to bow down to him – often quite publicly and demeaningly.

This has been the sad reality of the GOP for the past six years. Yet, for perhaps the first time, a Democrat is actually looking to use this very visible dynamic against his Republican opponent.

During a debate on Monday night, Ohio Senate candidate Rep. Tim Ryan (D) invoked his Republican opponent JD Vance’s tortured relationship with Trump.

But rather than focusing on Vance’s evolution from a harsh critic of Trump to an enthusiastic supporter, he focused more on the fact that Trump later gloated about it.

At a rally in Ohio last month, Trump subtly touched on past criticism of Vance while stressing that he has finally brought the young, ambitious political newcomer to heel.

“JD fucks my ass!” He wants my support so badly,” Trump said, adding, “I think he’s running, JD, on an ‘I love Donald Trump’ policy. Yeah, he said bad things about me, but that was before he knew me, and then he fell in love.

During Monday’s debate, Ryan noted that Vance later appeared on stage and spoke approvingly of the visit from the man who had just done this to him. He said it not only showed that Vance would do what Trump and his other benefactors want, but that it was very concerning because it showed a lack of dignity.

“I don’t know anybody that I grew up with, I don’t know anybody that I went to high school with, that would allow somebody to take their dignity like that and get back on stage,” Ryan said. “We need leaders who have the courage to confront their own party. And I proved it. And the former president called him a bugger.

Ryan then returned to the topic, saying, “I’m for Ohio. I don’t kiss anyone’s ass like him. Ohio needs an ass kicker, not an ass kisser.

Trump’s comments at the rally were lighthearted. But this is just the latest in a long line of examples of Trump very publicly putting his fellow supporters in their shoes — a routine they sometimes willingly accept, and other times not so much.

When former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped out of the 2016 presidential primary and endorsed Trump, Trump quickly inflicted a series of indignities on him. They understood that Christie stood awkwardly behind him during a particularly talkative Super Tuesday press conference, appearing to joke about Christie’s weight, a campaign aide apparently making up a story about Christie fetching McDonald’s for Trump, and Trump nudging Christie for campaigning so hard for president. – even as Christie was criticized for his absenteeism as governor of New Jersey.

At a 2017 event, the White House sat the president next to Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) — who in 2016 said he was “99% against Trump” — though Heller didn’t has yet to support Trump’s proposal to repeal Obamacare. Trump turned to Heller and assured he would eventually be on board, adding, “Look, he wants to stay a senator, doesn’t he?”

Sure enough, Heller passed both the ultimate “skinny repeal” bill and Trump in his 2018 re-election campaign, which he lost.

Trump offered somewhat similar comments to Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) at a meeting on gun control in 2018 — though in this case he didn’t say the senators of the GOP were indebted to him, but rather that they were “afraid” and “petrified” of the National Rifle Association.

There was Vice President Pence trying to set the world record for praising your boss the most times in the space of three minutes, with Trump assuring that critical Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) asked for his board to seek re-election and Trump dangling the post of secretary of state in front of vocal critic Mitt Romney, only to withdraw it after arguing that Romney was kissing his ring.

It has also taken the form of those who are rejected by Trump but bend over backwards to seek his approval.

Former Trump administration attorney general Jeff Sessions has called for a return to the Senate with a focus on his work with Trump, though Trump has repeatedly mocked him and effectively kicked him out of his functions. Sessions even ran an ad that the Washington Post summed up accordingly: “Jeff Sessions basically begs Trump for mercy in his first Senate ad.

Rep. Nancy Mace (RS.C.) responded to Trump by endorsing her main opponent by recording a video outside Trump Tower pledging his loyalty.

And in perhaps the most stark example, Wisconsin state Senate candidate Chris Kapenga (R) responded to Trump’s criticism of him last year by begging Trump to fix the record. Kapenga added that “the power of your pen on mine is like Thor’s hammer on a hairpin.” He also asked to be invited to play golf with Trump and promised to continue donning his Trump socks and Trump-Pence face mask whether or not Trump addresses his concerns about his impeachment.

And none of this, it’s worth pointing out, includes all the more subtly warped ways Republicans to stay in Trump’s good graces — like backing a plot to void the 2020 election they knew baseless and reckless, criticizing Trump for violence on January 6, 2021, and then shortly after pretending that none of this ever happened.

But will Ohio voters care? Granted, it’s a state that turned red during the Trump era, like much of the Rust Belt. And a recent Siena College poll showed there were more voters like Trump (44%) than President Biden (39%). The idea of ​​a GOP nominee being a reliable vote for Trump’s agenda is probably something Ohioans love more than voters in many other states with competitive Senate races. In many ways, this line of attack might be more valuable to Ryan as a potential rallying cry for the left.

But whether moderate or even mildly conservative voters want Vance by reflex backing Trump might be another matter. For all of Trump’s dominance over the GOP, the percentage of Republicans who define themselves as party first rather than Trump first has increased since the 2020 election, and moderate voters can still decide races like the Ohio. Ryan can credibly claim that he has shown himself to be more willing to thwart his party. Even on Monday, he called on Biden not to seek re-election in 2024 – something that would be unthinkable from Vance when talking about Trump.

What’s clear is that jabs like the one Trump made at Vance’s expense last month reinforce that he’s far more interested in demonstrating GOP loyalty than spurring fellow Republicans to help them. to win. And he will continue to do so because it is vital for his own political perspectivesluring an increasingly slavish crop of Republicans into politics.

That’s why we should expect a lot less JD Vance-style criticism around 2016 and a lot more gestures similar to what Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake did this weekend.




Washington

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