Trump’s curious hold on GOP politics

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Trump’s hold on the GOP is “complicated”

The most powerful Republican in America apparently doesn’t dare say the word “vaccine” at his own rallies.

“We did so much in terms of therapeutics and a word that I’m not allowed to mention,” former president Donald Trump said at a weekend rally in Anchorage. “We did that in nine months, and it was supposed to take five years to 12 years. Nobody else could have done it.”

“But I’m not mentioning it in front of my people, but someday we’re gonna have to all sit down and have a little talk,” he continued. “But you know what? We did a hell of a job.”

By now, you’ve guessed that this is yet another entry in the (frequently tedious) journalism genre devoted to exploring whether Trump’s hold on the GOP has slackened or tightened since he lost the 2020 election, with an eye on his influence this year and possible run for reelection in 2024.

The answer, like a Facebook relationship status 20 years ago, is “it’s complicated.”

It’s an interesting question at a time when Republicans are nervously watching for signs Trump may formally announce his reelection campaign before the midterms. That would potentially reframe what looks like a referendum on President Biden into a choice between the incumbent and his defeated 2020 rival.

The GOP would much prefer to run a referendum-style race, inviting Americans to vote based on painfully high gas prices and soaring inflation, both factors in leading a shockingly vast majority of Americans — nearly 9 out of 10 — to say the country is on the wrong track.

Biden and his allies, on the other hand, have been invoking Trump (not always by name) in response to criticisms. Just look at former senior West Wing adviser Cedric Richmond’s quotes here. (Or my reader feedback email, in which some folks warn anything that might be perceived as a slight of the current president risks bringing down the republic.)

On the one hand, Trump’s influence on the GOP is undeniable.

All over America, GOP candidates for office have embraced his false claims of being cheated out of a second term in 2020.

And more Republicans call the Jan. 6 insurrection — when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden’s victory — a “legitimate protest” (61 percent) than an insurrection (13 percent) or a riot (45 percent).

Major party figures like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) quickly stopped blaming Trump for the violence and have instead courted his benediction. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went from saying Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection to saying he’d vote for him again in 2024.

On the other hand, Trump has been getting warning signs — in polls and in the words and actions of some of the politicians thought to be contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

A recent poll encapsulated some of the contradictions. Yes, 49 percent of GOP primary voters said they’d back him for another nomination, well ahead of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) at 25 percent. That’s still half of Republicans who are ready to support someone else.

Even more remarkable, the poll found Trump trailing Biden 44 percent to 41 percent among voters overall. Yes, that’s inside the margin of error. But Biden’s national job approval rating is a dismal 33 percent.

Trump’s record with endorsements is also decidedly mixed. My colleague Aaron Blake recently reported that “it’s been shown that Trump’s endorsement is often only good for less than one-third of the vote. Sometimes that’s been good enough in crowded races, but more often it hasn’t been.”

At the Hill, Brett Samuels has chronicled how some major players in Trump’s 2020 campaign have begun distancing themselves from the former president — though not necessarily candidates made in his image.

Trump’s political future, like his political past, hinges on the parts of the Republican Party that he helped radicalize — the people still embracing the “big lie” that he was cheated in 2020. The Jan. 6 committee has shown time and time again that senior loyalists in Trump’s orbit — people like former attorney general Bill Barr, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and others — knew that to be nonsense in late 2020 and early 2021.

Trump’s relationship with the GOP base has always been complicated. He did not invent the racist lie that former president Obama was born in Kenya, but he used it as political rocket fuel to propel his White House aspirations.

His 2020 myths — again, rejected by every serious Trump administration official who looked into them — are largely GOP catechism now.

In 2020, Trump fueled politicization of the response to covid — playing down its severity, disparaging expert responses, promoting unproven and ineffective treatments. He didn’t lead the right-wing conspiracies about the vaccines, but he did little to combat them.

Today he can’t say “vaccine.”

June inflation soared 9.1%, a new 40-year high, amid high gas prices

“Prices soared by 9.1 percent in June, compared with a year ago, a new peak with inflation remaining at 40-year highs, driven in large part by higher energy prices,” Rachel Siegel reports.

  • “The inflation report, released Wednesday morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed June prices rose 1.3 percent, compared with prices the month before, which were also considered high.”

Biden, old-school backer of Israel, arrives at a tricky moment for both nations

“Israel’s unsettled political scene — [Prime Minister Yair Lapid] assumed office when the coalition government collapsed in turmoil at the end of June — means that the leaders will be navigating domestic pressures during a tightly scripted state visit, according to officials in both countries,” Steve Hendrix and Tyler Pager report.

More: Biden stresses deep ties to Israel in arrival ceremony in Tel Aviv

Democrats race to reach deal to prevent spike in health premiums

“The most urgent concern involves the fate of tax credits that help low- and middle-income Americans purchase health insurance annually. Unless Congress extends these subsidies, roughly 13 million people will see their monthly premiums spike in January, according to an estimate from Kaiser Family Foundation — in some cases by hundreds of dollars per person,” Tony Romm and Rachel Roubein report.

Chaos in Sri Lanka after protesters seize prime minister’s office

“Protesters stormed the office of Sri Lanka’s prime minister on Wednesday and took to the streets of the capital to demand the ouster of the island nation’s top leaders as a deadline for the president’s promised resignation arrived,” Niha Masih and Hafeel Farisz report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

The man who has Putin’s ear — and may want his job

“Ever since Putin ordered the Feb. 24 invasion, blindsiding much of the country’s elite, [Nikolai Patrushev, the powerful Security Council secretary and close Putin ally from their days together at the KGB,] has become a hard-line avatar for a militaristic Russia,” Catherine Belton reports.

“Patrushev’s sudden emergence after more than two decades as a behind-the-scenes power broker has underlined his role as a driving force in the Kremlin. For a while, it even prompted questions about whether he was seeking to position himself to take over from Putin, amid persistent speculation about the president’s health and Russia’s retreat from Kyiv.”

‘Unhinged’: The White House meeting that preceded Trump’s ‘will be wild’ tweet

“Late on a Friday night about six weeks after Donald Trump lost his reelection, a fistfight nearly broke out in the White House between the president’s fired national security adviser and a top White House aide,” Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey report.

“For hours, [a motley crew of unofficial Trump advisers] tried to persuade Trump to take extraordinary, potentially illegal action to ignore the election results and try to stay in power. And for hours, some of Trump’s actual White House advisers tried to persuade him that those ideas were, in the words of one lawyer who participated, ‘nuts.’

Critical omissions plague Texas gun background check law

“Despite language in [the] bill that says local courts should report to the state’s top law enforcement agency any time a judge orders any person, regardless of age, to receive inpatient mental health treatment, the news organizations found that they are not reporting juvenile records because of problems with the way the law was written, vague guidance from the state and conflicts with other Texas laws,” Jeremy Schwartz and Kiah Collier report in a collaboration between ProPublica and the Texas Tribune.

PPP was awash in fraud. Now, one lender may finally face a legal reckoning.

“Hundreds of borrowers have been prosecuted for submitting fraudulent [Paycheck Protection Program] applications, but few lenders have been held accountable for their role in approving these fraudulent loans,” the Miami Herald‘s Ben Wieder reports.

“Now, thanks to an obscure filing in one of South Florida’s many PPP fraud cases, it has been revealed that one of the biggest lenders in the program’s first year might soon be facing consequences.”

Biden officials urge use of booster shots, antivirals against BA.5

“The BA.4 and BA.5 variants now make up 80 percent of circulating virus in the United States, according to federal data, and their greater transmissibility and immune-evading ability have raised alarms as cases and hospitalizations have increased,” Lena H. Sun reports.

White House eyes oil and gas projects to woo Manchin on climate bill

“In the past week and a half, the White House has taken steps that would have been considered unimaginable when President Biden first took office, suggesting that it might greenlight drilling plans in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico that would produce hundreds of millions more barrels of oil,” Jeff Stein and Anna Phillips report.

Justice Dept. announces task force to fight overreach on abortion bans

“The task force, led by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, will be charged with monitoring and evaluating state and local legislation and weighing legal action against states that ban abortion medication or attempt to block a pregnant person from traveling out of state for an abortion, among other measures,” David Nakamura and Rachel Roubein report.

Dangerous conditions persist as migrants wait for Biden administration to stop ‘Remain in Mexico’ program

“Some migrants said they are waiting in constant fear and deplorable surroundings, often in crowded shelters in cities where there have been numerous reports of violence and threats, such as kidnapping, extortion and sexual assault,” NBC News’s Daniella Silva reports.

Biden’s spyware conundrum on Mideast trip

The Biden administration has pledged to crack down on spyware companies and foreign governments that deploy it to snoop on journalists and dissidents. Officials are especially concerned about spyware from Israeli company NSO Group, which a joint investigation by The Guardian and other media groups alleged is used by the Saudi government,” Politico‘s Maggie Miller reports.

“But strong public pressure to bring down the price of gas by strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia, and a wish to foster peace in Israel, could force Biden to push spyware down the list of priorities.”

Month-to-month inflation, visualized

“Inflation is showing few signs of letting up, compounding the pressure on the Federal Reserve and White House to ratchet up their response — and convince the American public that they can significantly slow the economy without causing a recession,” Rachel Siegel reports.

In CNN interview, John Bolton says he has planned foreign coups

“Bolton’s comments were unusual, as U.S. officials have generally avoided using the term ‘coup’ when speaking about U.S. foreign policy matters. The remarks went viral, with one clip on Twitter amassing more than 2 million views by early Wednesday,” Julian Mark reports.

A culture warrior goes quiet: DeSantis dodges questions on abortion plans

“DeSantis, a favorite among those Republicans who want to move on from the Trump era, is rarely a reluctant partisan warrior. But his hesitance to detail his plans for abortion policy reflects the new and, in some states, difficult political terrain for Republicans in the post-Roe v. Wade era, as Democrats grasp for advantage on the issue in an otherwise largely hostile midterm election year,” the New York Times‘s Maggie Haberman, Patricia Mazzei and Michael C. Bender report.

Biden is in Israel today. This morning, the president delivered remarks in Tel Aviv, was briefed on air defense systems and took part in a wreath-laying ceremony in Jerusalem. He does not have any public events scheduled for this afternoon. (ET)

Capitol statue collection gets first Black American, replacing Confederate

“A statue of Mary McLeod Bethune will be unveiled Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol, making her the first Black American in the National Statuary Hall collection,” Gillian Brockell reports.

“Bethune was a civil rights activist, a presidential adviser and the founder of the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls, which became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. Her statue will represent the state of Florida.”

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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