Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose twelve-year stint in Congress will end next month, said Sunday that former President Donald Trump hasn’t maintained his iron grip on the Republican Party due in part to Republicans’ underperformance in the midterms and the manner in which Trump launched his re-election bid.
Appearing on CNN State of the Union, Toomey elaborated on his closing piece of advice to his GOP colleagues, having said Thursday on the Senate floor that his party “can’t be about or beholden to any one man.”
Host Jake Tapper asked the retiring Senator if he believed Republicans “are increasingly receptive to that message,” and if Trump’s sway over the party is slipping.
“Absolutely I do,” Toomey replied. “First, I think his influence was waning — not as quickly as I had hoped it would — but I think it was waning. But the election outcome from last month I think dramatically accelerates the waning, and, frankly, his unbelievably terrible rollout of his re-election — his election campaign is also not helping him.”
As it happens, Republicans lost the race to fill Toomey’s seat, meaning Democrats will control the chamber with an outright majority and not have to depend on a tie-breaking vote by the vice president. The GOP did manage to win back the House, though by a much smaller margin than anticipated, causing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) some headaches when it comes to corralling enough votes to become Speaker.
A week after the midterms — yet before the Senate runoff election in Georgia — Trump announced his candidacy during a lethargic speech from Mar-a-Lago. Since then, he demanded the “termination” of the Constitution to get his old job back, dined with a white supremacist and an antisemite, and shilled NFTs, a move that even some of his most loyal supporters couldn’t get behind. On top of that, Trump’s namesake organization was convicted on nine counts of tax fraud, and he has been losing major donors one by one.
Toomey specified that one example of what he viewed as the party’s willingness to move beyond Trump was the “impressive turnout of prominent Republicans who have been going to events like the [Republican Jewish Coalition’s] meeting in Las Vegas openly talking about themselves as candidates after Donald Trump had already made it clear he was running.” That event last month featured Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, the day after Trump’s announcement, called for “leaders who are looking forward, not staring in the rearview mirror claiming victimhood.”
“It tells you that they perceive the Republican electorate to be much more open,” Toomey said. “And in my travels since the election around Pennsylvania, I’ve heard from many, many formerly very pro-Trump voters that they think it’s time for our party to move on. So, yes, I think that process is under way. It’s not a flip of a switch. It doesn’t happen overnight. [Trump] still has a significant following, that’s for sure. But I do think his influence is waning.”