Who Will Be The Next Trump Critic Within the GOP? By Luke Perry
This has been a remarkable week as prominent Republicans publicly eviscerated their party leader, President Trump. Such behavior has arguably not occurred since Richard Nixon and Watergate.
Congressional scholars share a primary assumption in researching political behavior: members of Congress are fundamentally self-interested and prioritize being reelected. Therefore, much of their behavior can be understood in relation to this objective.
Re-election is becoming an increasingly significant variable in understanding the political behavior of Republican members of Congress who are concerned about the Trump presidency.
Bob Corker and Jeff Flake have become strong critics of President Trump, joining John McCain. The former are well respected Republican Senators who recently announced they will not be seeking reelection. McCain was just reelected and is likely serving his final term.
This trend dates back to Richard Hanna (NY-22), who prior to retirement, became the only sitting Republican member of Congress to endorse Hillary Clinton in 2016.
If no other GOP Senator retires in the near future, does that suggest the emergence of Trump critics will end? Perhaps not. To understand who may be next, looking at current GOP Senators who didn’t endorse Donald Trump in 2016 may be instructive:
Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Dan Sullivan (AK)
Jeff Flake (AZ)
John McCain (AZ)
Cory Gardner (CO)
Susan Collins (ME)
Ben Sasse (NE)
Dean Heller (NV)
Rob Portman (OH)
Pat Toomey (PA)
Lindsey Graham (SC)
Mike Lee (UT)
Several have already differed with President Trump on issues, such as healthcare and race relations, and/or expressed concern about his character, the focus of this week’s criticism.
I’ve already explained how Trump unravels ties to his party at his own peril and how his unorthodox presidency may spark a primary challenge. Since the origins of Trump dissent in the GOP are rooted in his candidacy, the next Senate critics are likely to be found there as well.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.