Former US President Donald Trump has tightened his grip on the Republican Party amid speculation that he could run for the White House again in 2024. This has demoralized moderate members of the party.
Facing a possible defeat in the Republican primary against a Trump-backed candidate, Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) has announced that he would not seek reelection next year because of Trump’s influence on the party.
Gonzalez, who was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump earlier this year, lamented the “chaotic political environment that currently infects” the United States.
On Friday, Trump in his reaction to Gonzalez’s announcement gloated: “1 down, 9 to go!”.
The former president celebrated the Ohio Republican’s departure as his victory. Gonzalez became Trump’s first victim in his post-election crusade against the 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach him, according to Politico.
Shannon Burns, the president of Ohio’s Strongsville GOP, said Gonzalez “was an up-and-coming star, who made, I think, a terrible political calculation, and paid a price for it.” In a district where Trump beat Joe Biden by more than 14 percentage points, Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor and Trump adviser, said Gonzalez “got out to avoid an embarrassing or humiliating defeat.”
Even Trump’s critics at Capitol Hill said that Gonzalez’s withdrawal was a sign of Trump’s enduring grip on the Republican Party.
“Anthony Gonzalez is one of … the most honorable public servants that I've ever known. And the idea that the Republican Party is going to drive people like him out tells you that the party is at a moment that is very perilous for us,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview, adding “that's not a party that can lead into the future.” She is among Trump’s staunchest critics at Capitol Hill.
The Politico report noted that by forgoing a bruising primary against a Trump-endorsed candidate, Gonzalez also deprived the Republican Party of what would have been one of the best test cases in the country of the full extent of Trump’s grip over the GOP.
Former Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, the Ohio lawmaker who was replaced by Gonzalez, said Trump’s endorsement no doubt was “powerful.” But Gonzalez, he said, had “the power of incumbency.”
Cheney is Trump’s top target in the primaries next year. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, another Republican on Trump’s hit list. And large numbers pro-Trump voters are now opposing Republican candidates who ditched the former president.
According to another recent report, potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates are worried about Trump’s increasingly aggressive flirtation with a third presidential run.
For months, Trump, a Republican, has floated the idea of a 2024 rematch against Democratic President Joe Biden. But in recent weeks, he has signaled strongly that he may be more likely to run again than not, according to a report published by The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper, last week.
Trump’s statements have intensified a collective headache for other would-be presidential contenders who have already started laying the groundwork for their own primary campaigns, according to the report.
The report says that Trump is still the most influential Republican in the country, and there’s little appetite within the GOP to challenge him for the 2024 presidential nod.