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Politics: Trump’s Troubles Weigh Down Republicans Eager to Move On

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Mitch McConnell, as has been the case for the last six years, did not want to talk about Donald Trump this week. The Senate Republican leader has never been a fan of the former president, refusing to comment on various Trump tweets and bombastic statements. But the lackluster performance of Trump-backed Republican candidates in the midterms was not only an embarrassment to the party, it also cost the Kentucky lawmaker the job of majority leader.

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This week, McConnell couldn't shake off the man who has been an increasing irritant and distraction for Republicans – who would prefer to talk taxes, the border and inflation. Trump had simply gone too far the previous weekend, dining with a man the Justice Department described as a white supremacist, Nick Fuentes, who has made brazenly antisemitic comments, and with a rapper, Kanye "Ye" West, who has been shunned for his own verbal attacks on Jewish people.

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  Georgia's Republican lieutenant governor says he couldn't bring himself to vote for Herschel Walker Republican Herschel Walker or Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock are facing off in the Georgia runoff to determine the control of the Senate.So far, Americans have dealt devastating blows to his brand by rejecting key candidates in closely-contested races. Rather than a so-called "red wave," results were still unclear on Wednesday. Republicans are likely to win control of the House but the Senate is still in play for both parties.

"Let me just say that there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States," McConnell told reporters, addressing the Trump question even before it was asked.

It was meant to get the GOP elephant in the room out of the way, so McConnell and the Senate Republican leadership team could talk about issues they wanted to address – and Democratic priorities they wanted to thwart.

It didn't work.

Trump, wounded by the losses of his endorsed candidates in the midterms and facing ripening legal troubles on several fronts, has become a weightier albatross around the collective GOP neck. And since the famously defiant Trump won't step aside, the former president threatens to take the rest of the party with him.

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  Trump has just a handful of vocal 2024 supporters in Congress. We asked them why they back him over Ron DeSantis and others. Rep. Ronny Jackson, one of Trump's few 2024 backers in Congress, said Ron DeSantis shouldn't run. "I don't need to see any more," he said.Among them are some of the usual hardline Republican suspects, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

Despite the negative reactions to Trump's behavior and statements, "I think he likes the conversation being about him," says Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber's Republican whip. "There are things we want to do. There are things the Republican Party believes in, and stands for, and positions it would like to articulate to the American people.

"And so if you have people who are constantly creating distractions and taking (the party) off message and forcing people who answer questions like the ones you're asking, it's not a good sign," Thune adds in response to a question about Trump's enduring influence in the party.

While Trump fights to stay in the political picture, Republicans are looking for ways to separate themselves, although they often avert a direct provocation of Trump, the first GOPer to announce a run for president in 2024.

Several major Republican donors have announced they won't back Trump in 2024, urging the party to find new leadership.

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  Herschel Walker says Obama did not tell the 'whole story' when the former president joked about the GOP senate candidate's interest in werewolves and vampires "The whole story is the story involved people having faith, having faith and continuing to go out and do your job," Walker told Fox News.So far, Americans have dealt devastating blows to his brand by rejecting key candidates in closely-contested races. Rather than a so-called "red wave," results were still unclear on Wednesday. Republicans are likely to win control of the House but the Senate is still in play for both parties.

The Republican National Committee has formed a new advisory council to "inform the Republican Party's 2024 vision and beyond," especially by reaching out to Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans, youth and suburban voters – all groups that favored Democrats in the midterms.

Although Trump made some inroads among Black men and Hispanic voters – and GOP candidates did better, overall, with Latino voters in the midterms than they have in the past – the gains are minimal. The inroads among Hispanic voters, for example, were largely in increasingly red Florida. In Nevada and Arizona, Hispanic voters provided the margin of victory for statewide Democratic candidates in those states.

Republicans conducted a campaign "autopsy" after GOP nominee Mitt Romney's 2012 loss to President Barack Obama and found that the party needed to reach out more to women, LGBTQ people and racial and ethnic minorities, whom the Census Bureau projects will make America a majority-minority nation by 2044.

The problem Trump creates for the party, notes Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, is that he won in 2016 by taking the exact opposite approach, appealing to aggrieved white and working class voters who felt they were being pushed aside in the new America.

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In a primary election, Trump and his endorsed candidates can do well, experts say – as they did in the midterms, capturing the GOP nominations in key states.

But in general elections, Trumpian candidates face bigger hurdles, alienating moderate GOP voters and making few inroads among Democrats. That is the perhaps-fatal flaw of the candidacy of Herschel Walker, a Republican in a Tuesday runoff for the Senate seat now held by Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Trump has not been invited to campaign with Walker, a longtime friend of the former president whom Trump promoted for the nomination. But it may be too late for Walker to stake his own ground, since he is so closely aligned with Trump and has provided erratic and meandering responses to questions about policy on the campaign trail, Abramowitz notes.

GOP Gov. Brian Kemp stood up to Trump, refusing to help the former president overturn President Joe Biden's win in the Peach State in 2022. He was reelected easily.

"What we're seeing now in the runoff is that, without Kemp at the top of the ticket, Walker is now on his own," Abramowitz says.

When it comes to the 2024 presidential race, Trump will also be hard to marginalize, experts say. Unlike Democratic primaries – where delegates are awarded proportionally – GOP contests are winner-take-all. That means GOP challengers could divide up the anti-Trump vote, allowing the former president to get the nomination even without majority support of his party.

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A recent Quinnipiac poll, taken after Trump's 2024 presidential announcement, found that 57% of Americans think Trump's candidacy is a bad idea, with 34% believing it to be a good idea. But when it comes to Republicans, Trump does much better: 62% think a Trump '24 run is a good thing, and 27% think it's a bad idea, according to the poll.

Potential GOP challengers have been under pressure to denounce Trump's visit with Fuentes – but they also must be cautious about alienating Trump's base. Trump's own vice president, Mike Pence, was most direct, saying Trump should apologize for the meeting and denounce the individuals making hateful comments.

Trump's former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, denounced antisemitism (which he defined as being opposed to Israel), and said in a tweet that "we need more seriousness, less noise" – but did not directly criticize Trump by name.

Republicans worried about Trump's baggage "will be looking for someone who does Trumpism, and appeals to enough Trump loyalists, that they can replace him with an improved version rather than replacing what he stands for," says Princeton University history professor Julian Zelizer. "But it won't be easy. The loyalty he commands is immense."

On the Hill, the picture is complicated as well. While McConnell has grown increasingly bold in denouncing Trump's behavior, his House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, is in a political box. Having won a narrow majority in the midterms, McCarthy cannot afford to lose many GOP votes in his quest to be speaker and has been careful not to attack Trump directly.

"I don't know if they can, to be honest," conservative writer Geoff Kabaservice says to the question of how the GOP can separate itself from Trump and his problems.

"The tea party was a movement, but the Trump movement is really more of a cult," and the leadership of it is "not one I'm sure is available to any other aspiring cult leader. As long as Trump has 30-35% of the base, they can't dislodge him," adds Kabaservice, vice president of political studies at the Niskanen Center.

Zelizer says the only thing that will change the Republican Party is sequential losses. "They now have 2020 and 2022. That means (Trump) is more vulnerable than before. Yet his hold remains strong."

Mainstream Republicans want to move on. But they just can't quit Donald Trump.

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Michael Cohen says Donald Trump 'doesn't care' that Ivanka's family is Jewish and he will not denounce Kanye West's antisemitism .
Michael Cohen told MSNBC that Donald Trump won't apologize for failing to condemn Kanye West's antisemitism even though Ivanka's family is Jewish.Interactions with the America First Foundation leader have also prompted GOP politicians  to deny knowing who Fuentes is and what he stands for. Embattled former President Donald Trump is currently trying to distance himself from Fuentes following a Thanksgiving holiday sit-down at Mar-a-Lago that included the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.

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