Republicans Absorb New Lesson: Cross President Trump at Their Peril


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WASHINGTON — President Trump wasn’t on the poll and even stateside for Tuesday’s main elections in Virginia and South Carolina. However he loomed over each states, simply as he has in practically each nominating contest this 12 months, underscoring how the Republican Celebration has change into the get together of Trump and that its politicians cross him at their peril.

As Consultant Mark Sanford of South Carolina came upon the laborious method, in his shock main defeat, having a conservative voting report is much less vital than demonstrating complete loyalty to Mr. Trump, who now enjoys increased approval rankings in his personal get together than any trendy president besides George W. Bush following the assaults of Sept. 11. And in Virginia, a far-right candidate, Corey Stewart, received the Republican Senate nomination after waging an incendiary marketing campaign and portraying himself as a disciple of Mr. Trump.

The president’s transformation of the G.O.P. — its insurance policies, its tone, even the destiny of its candidates — has by no means been so evident. A celebration that when championed free commerce has now largely turned to protectionism beneath Mr. Trump. Sermons about inclusivity have been changed with demagogic assaults on immigrants and black athletes. A trust-but-verify method to overseas coverage has given strategy to a seat-of-the-pants type during which rogue regimes like North Korea are elevated and democratic allies like Canada are belittled.

Mr. Trump’s harsh assaults, together with describing the information media as “the nation’s greatest enemy” Tuesday, draw muted responses or silence from most Republicans today. The get together’s lawmakers have seen what he can do to their campaigns, having witnessed how Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee noticed their standing with conservative voters plummet after they tangled with him. Neither is searching for re-election.

Whereas Mr. Trump has been reshaping Republican identification for practically two years — beginning along with his 2016 nomination victory and the hard-line tone and platform he laid out at that summer season’s Republican conference — he has by no means had this a lot alternative to wield energy over the get together as he does now, together with over immigration laws and tariffs in Congress.

“If you happen to criticize him, you’re siding with the media that hates him and also you’re undermining what he’s attempting to perform,” mentioned former Senator Rick Santorum, explaining why Mr. Trump has consolidated assist. “Trump has carried out job in being a conservative president and as a lot as Democrats regarded previous what Invoice Clinton mentioned and did, Republicans are wanting previous what this president says and does.”

Meaning Republican lawmakers are going to be additional certain to Mr. Trump within the midterm elections, much less prone to increase doubts about his impulsive policymaking and, maybe most consequential for a president dealing with scrutiny by a particular counsel, extra inclined to chorus from criticizing his private conduct and use of government energy.

“This can have an additional chilling impact,” mentioned Mr. Flake, including, “If you wish to do effectively in a main, you’ve acquired to behave accordingly.”

Along with Mr. Flake, Mr. Trump has helped push Mr. Corker into retirement and performed an element in Speaker Paul D. Ryan and 39 different Home members leaving Congress, essentially the most Home Republicans to not search re-election for not less than 90 years.

Mr. Sanford had voted for a lot of Mr. Trump’s agenda, however repeatedly lamented what he referred to as the “cult of persona” gripping the get together. His opponent, State Consultant Katie Arrington, used these critiques towards him to nice impact, casting the first as a loyalty take a look at and defeating Mr. Sanford by 4 share factors.

Per week earlier in Alabama, Consultant Martha Roby, who withdrew her assist from Mr. Trump in 2016 after the “Entry Hollywood” video was launched, confronted fierce assaults for her disloyalty and should compete in a July runoff as a result of she fell wanting profitable a majority within the main.

Mr. Sanford’s loss additionally got here on the identical evening that Mr. Stewart, an area Virginia official who has drawn consideration for concentrating on immigrants and defending the Confederacy, claimed the Senate nomination in what was an unmistakable victory for the form of racially tinged politics that Mr. Trump embraced in 2016.

The president exulted over each races Wednesday, crowing about his last-minute help torpedoing Mr. Sanford, a reference to an 11th-hour tweet that called Mr. Sanford “nothing but trouble’’ and endorsed Ms. Arrington. And Mr. Trump argued that Mr. Stewart has “a major chance of winning” in a state that has not elected a statewide Republican in nearly a decade.

It was fitting that such a momentous day of voting took place in Virginia, because it was there four years ago that Representative Eric Cantor, then the House majority leader, was upset in his primary. And just as Mr. Cantor’s stunning defeat all but extinguished any hope for a comprehensive immigration overhaul, the results Tuesday appear to have snuffed out any room for dissent among G.O.P. lawmakers who rely on the president’s supporters for votes.

In Congress, Senate Republicans will likely not challenge Mr. Trump over trade and tariffs, with leaders blocking a vote Mr. Corker is pushing to require congressional approval for tariffs implemented on national security grounds.

And on the immigration debate, House Republican leaders repelled an effort by moderate party members to force a vote on bipartisan measures to protect young immigrants because the president opposed them. Instead, the House will vote next week on two tougher measures that the White House is helping write to accommodate Mr. Trump.

“We are in a strange place,” said Mr. Corker, who has alternately been one of Mr. Trump’s closest allies and loudest critics. Referring to Republican fealty to Mr. Trump, he added, “It’s becoming a cultish thing.”

To Mr. Trump’s supporters, though, the fealty to Mr. Trump simply reflects the devotion he now enjoys from the party’s grass roots.

“His base is loyal and support is strong, giving him the leverage to move votes — at the ballot box and the legislative chamber,” said Brian O. Walsh, who runs the president’s main super PAC. “There’s room for negotiation, but obstruction will end careers.”

Yet what alarms Republicans eyeing a House map in which the most competitive races are in suburban districts that reject Trump-style politics, is that Tuesday’s results will induce more candidates to hew closely to the president to avoid angering the party base. Doing so now may be imperative to ensure a robust turnout and retain a stable of volunteers — but it also could risk driving away independent voters who are deeply contemptuous of Mr. Trump.

“There is writing on the wall when it comes to races like Sanford’s, but each district is also different,” said Representative Tom Rooney of Florida, a Republican who is also retiring. “It might not be a good thing to cross the president in South Carolina, but outside Philadelphia, it might not matter.”

The danger in adopting Mr. Trump’s incendiary approach was on vivid display Wednesday, when Senate Republicans refused to embrace Mr. Stewart and the party braced for the havoc he could wreak in some of the heavily suburban Virginia districts where they are defending incumbents.

“The national narrative on the Virginia Senate race is that Corey is associated with extreme nativist views,” said Marty Nohe who serves on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors with Mr. Stewart. He added, “The job of those Republican nominees just got harder.”

David Ramadan, a former state lawmaker, said Representative Barbara Comstock of Northern Virginia could encounter the most difficultly fending off questions about Mr. Stewart, who will face Senator Tim Kaine this November. (Ms. Comstock is already facing trouble on her right flank, losing over 39 percent in Tuesday’s primary to a hard-line challenger who embraced Mr. Trump.)

The chairman of his board, Mr. Stewart has praised white nationalists and made racially inflammatory comments about intraparty rivals. Earlier this year, he stood outside the state capitol assailing Republican legislators for being “flaccid,” adding, “I feel sorry for their wives.”

Virginia Republicans, who have not won a statewide race in nearly a decade, give Mr. Stewart little chance of success, but some worry that becoming the Trump party carries long-term political risks. The fear: Moderate voters will either become Democrats or register as independents and cast their ballots for Democrats, denying Republicans the sort of middle-of-the-road voter they need to win in a state with an educated and diverse electorate.

“The Grand Old Party under Trump is no more,” said Mr. Ramadan, bemoaning the Republican reorientation.

“What principles are we operating on today?” he asked. “Free trade? Family values when we’re taking children from their parents? No taxes when we are putting up tariffs? What are the principles of the Republican Party today? Whatever Trump wants to do when he gets up.”

Jonathan Martin reported from Washington, and Michael Tackett from Manassas, Va. Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting from Washington.

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