- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy visited former President Donald Trump in Florida on Thursday.
- The trip shows the power Trump still has over the Republican Party.
- Republicans like McCarthy are returning swiftly to Trump after briefly condemning him.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In the wake of the deadly Capitol riot, it seemed President Donald Trump’s brand was toxic.
Even the usually staunchly loyal Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said Trump bore responsibility for the violence. Ten Republicans, though not McCarthy, voted with Democrats to make Trump the only US president impeached twice.
Three weeks later, it’s a very different story.
In a tacit acknowledgement that Trump retains his status as the GOP kingmaker, McCarthy on Thursday visited Trump in his postpresidential home in Florida.
A statement from McCarthy’s office said the two discussed how the Republican Party could win back Congress in 2022.
—Ed O’Keefe (@edokeefe) January 28, 2021
Contradicting opinion polls, Trump’s new Save America PAC boasted after the meeting that “President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time.”
Trump had vented to aides about McCarthy initially blaming him for the riot, Reuters reported.
McCarthy shifted his stance to say that “everyone across the country” was responsible.
He’s not the only senior Republican whose tone has changed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell initially blamed Trump and signaled he was open to convicting him in an impeachment trial. He was said to be determined to rid the party of Trump’s influence.
But on Wednesday, McConnell voted with most of his GOP Senate colleagues against having a Senate impeachment trial. The move failed, with Democrats and five GOP senators voting to have the trial.
The prospect of Trump’s conviction in an impeachment trial, which could be followed by another vote to bar him from future public office, looks increasingly remote.
The abrupt shift comes with polls showing the hold Trump still has over the party’s grassroots.
A poll by Morning Consult this week found that Trump’s popularity among Republicans — while below all-time highs — had bounced back since the riot.
Of the Republican voters polled Saturday to Monday, 81% said they held a favorable view of the former president, a rise from a 76% low in mid-January, while 75% said they disapproved of his impeachment.
Trump has dangled the prospect of starting a new party that could split the GOP vote and leave the task of winning back Congress in the midterms all but impossible. It’s most likely another factor in the thinking of GOP leaders.
Speaking on NBC, former GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Sunday spelled out the dilemma facing the party: a Trump wing, which he said wanted “to purge those who have stood up to the president’s lies,” and an establishment wing seeking to purge Trump.
“Right now,” he said, “it’s clear that the Trump wing is dominant.”