Establishment Republicans are indicating that they would rather see Democratic electoral wins rather than grassroots conservatives — justifying a long-standing fear from the party base that GOP elites are closer to Democrats than to the conservative movement.
The preference by Republicans submerged in the swamp for a “sensible” candidate to win was on display throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, when many Republicans kept Trump at arm’s length and jumped to the nearest microphone to criticize him at any opportunity.
This stopped when Trump won in November, with some critics such as Mitt Romney turning into admirers as they fished for a job, but that attitude has reared its head since Judge Roy Moore’s upset victory in the Alabama Senate primary last month over establishment-backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL).
According to Alabama’s AL.com, the establishment-linked Chamber of Commerce has decided to pick up its ball and go home after Strange, who the CoC backed, lost. Instead, it says it will “spend the next 60 days working on job growth initiatives and tax reform.”
“We have a process for non-incumbent races and plan to follow it in Alabama,”Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the chamber, told the outlet. “A candidates’ stated priorities and positions on economic issues have great weight with the U.S.C.C. and the Alabama business community.”
Showing signs of sour grapes, he added: “The Alabama trial lawyers and the 85 percent of eligible Alabama voters that did not vote gave us Roy Moore.”
This comes just days after the Senate Leadership Fund, which is linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and also pumped money into Strange’s campaign, announced that it was also pulling out of the race. It presented this exit as confidence in Moore’s victory.
“This is Alabama, not New York or California,” SLF spokesman Chris Pack told AL.com. “Democrats would first need to demonstrate this is an actual race before anything is considered.”
Yet a new Fox News poll released Tuesday shows Moore and Democratic opponent Doug Jones tied at 42 points. The poll is not a reason for Moore to panic — the poll surveys registered, not likely voters and 11 percent are undecided — but it makes it harder for groups like the SLF to present the race as a shoe-in.
Instead, conservatives are likely to conclude that the establishment is either indifferent to whether Moore or Jones wins, or perhaps would prefer a conservative Democrat wins office than a conservative Republican — as they may be more open to establishment agenda items.
Jones has perhaps picked up on this mood from GOP elites and told voters in a new ad that “I can work with Republicans” better than Moore.
— Kevin Robillard (@PoliticoKevin) October 17, 2017
This preference for Democrats was stated explicitly Monday when prominent ex-GOP Florida Rep. Doug Jolly said the U.S. “might be better off” if the Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the House in 2018.
“I, personally, as a Republican, in the past few weeks have wondered, ‘Is the republic safer if Democrats take over the House in 2018?'” he said during an interview on MSNBC.
Jolly said he is not the only one thinking such thoughts, and that a leading Republican “had been thinking exactly the same thing.”
Jolly justified his statement by saying Trump “needs a greater check on his power than Republicans in Congress have offered.”
While many of Trump’s supporters have complained about Congress’ inability to get key campaign promises of Trump’s through their chambers, particularly the Senate, Jolly believes that more, not less, blocking of the president’s agenda is required.
“Democrats could [be a check], and we might be better off as a republic if they take the House in 2018,” he said.
Those remarks come as Trump has been fending off fierce criticism from Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — two of the coziest establishment lawmakers in D.C.
Corker accused Trump of putting the country on the path to World War III and said the White House has become an “adult day care center.” McCain — who helped kill off Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare over the summer — tore into what he called “half-baked, spurious nationalism” on Monday. McCain has since denied that he was talking specifically about the president.
Neither lawmaker has made any recent comments about Democrats that come close to being as inflammatory as those made about the Republican president in the White House.
McConnell, meanwhile, called Corker a “valuable member” of the Republican caucus after his remarks about Trump were reported.
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY