The results, as usual, serve as something of a GOP weather gauge.
Whether conservatives have been willing to criticize Donald Trump or not has long served as a reliable indicator of Trump’s power within the party.
Trump, who demands conformity and loyalty, puts colleagues in a position where they must support him publicly, or face his wrath. So, the ebb and flow of Trump’s internal power can be gauged by tracking public endorsements.
When Trump is powerful, GOP members have restrained from speaking out against Trump publicly, even when the GOP member disagreed with Trump. Only when Trump’s power is at its lowest have GOP members felt comfortable speaking out against Trump – examples being before he won the GOP nomination in 2016. And also last Fall when his midterms picks were destroyed and Ron DeSantis seemed to be rising as the potential new head of the GOP. But Trump has done his Lazarus thing and reasserted his dominance over the GOP. And accordingly, many (but not all) prominent GOP candidates are unwilling to speak out against him – as commentary from the current batch of presidential hopefuls demonstrates.
Here’s what the GOP presidential candidates had to say about Trump’s latest indictment. And remember, the candidates are running against Trump – a position with a great incentive to make Trump look bad.
GOP Responses to Donald Trump Legal Problems
Vivek Ramaswamy confirmed that, if elected president, he would pardon Trump. “Donald Trump isn’t the cause of what happened on Jan 6. The real cause was systematic & pervasive censorship of citizens in the year leading up to it.”
Ron DeSantis also promised to pardon Trump – and echoed some of Trump’s patented ‘swamp’ rhetoric. “Washington, DC is a ‘swamp’ and it is unfair to have to stand trial before a jury that is reflective of the swamp mentality.”
But not everyone jumped to defend Trump – suggesting a slip in Trump’s vice-grip on the party.
Nikki Haley, who formerly served as Trump’s UN Ambassador, has remained silent.
Chris Christie, who has a personal vendetta against Donald Trump (following Christie’s estrangement from the Trump administration), said that “the events around the White House from election night forward are a stain on our country’s history & a disgrace to the people who participated. This disgrace falls the most on Donald Trump.”
Asa Hutchinson said “I have always said that Donald Trump is morally responsible for the attack on our democracy. Now, with today’s indictment, our system of Justice will determine whether he is criminally responsible.”
And Will Hurd, predictably anti-Trump, said “Let me be crystal clear: Trump’s presidential bid is driven by an attempt to stay out of prison and scam his supporters into footing his legal bills. Furthermore, his denial of the 2020 election results and actions on Jan.6 show he’s unfit for office.”
Finally, there was Mike Pence, whose relationship with Trump has been uniquely complicated, speaking forcefully – in an oblique way. “Today’s indictment serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be President of the United States.”
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.