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Business News/ News / World/  Trump Tightens Grasp on Republican Party as He Nears Nomination
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Trump Tightens Grasp on Republican Party as He Nears Nomination

Donald Trump is moving to consolidate power over the Republican Party, foreshadowing the loyalty he would demand in a potential second term, as he stands on the cusp of clinching his party’s presidential nomination.

Trump Tightens Grasp on Republican Party as He Nears NominationPremium
Trump Tightens Grasp on Republican Party as He Nears Nomination

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump is moving to consolidate power over the Republican Party, foreshadowing the loyalty he would demand in a potential second term, as he stands on the cusp of clinching his party’s presidential nomination. 

Trump is ramping up efforts to bully Nikki Haley out of the race. His campaign mocked her after a stunning second-place finish in the Nevada primary in which he didn’t even compete. Trump is set to take all of the state’s delegates Thursday in a party caucus where the rules were engineered in his favor, following wins in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign is pushing out the head of the Republican National Committee in favor of a new hand-picked ally and signaling to deep-pocketed donors that it’s time to unite behind Trump. Those back-room dealings occurred as Trump pressured congressional Republicans to kill a bipartisan immigration deal, robbing President Joe Biden of a victory and preserving Trump’s ability to capitalize politically on the migrant influx at the US-Mexico border. 

“He is the de facto leader of the party," said Mick Mulvaney, who served as Trump’s acting White House chief of staff. “If I were the presumptive leader of the party, I would want a good deal of input with what my party is doing in Congress."

Trump’s displays of raw power reflect his commandeering style honed over decades in real estate, reality television and the presidency, in which he pushed the boundaries of American politics to ensure the government reflected his personality and wishes. 

His attempts to project strength have often sowed chaos. Trump was the first US president to be impeached twice, the second time after his followers stormed the Capitol in an effort to overturn his 2020 election loss. There are ample signs Trump’s latest moves could also have negative consequences for him.

Immigration Battle

Biden has implored Americans to remember the “nightmare" of Trump’s presidency. The GOP frontrunner’s gambit to defeat an immigration plan that Republicans themselves demanded gave Biden evidence to make the case that Trump would bring back the same kind of erratic behavior that defined his presidency.

“Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically," Biden said Tuesday of the immigration compromise. “He’d rather weaponize this issue than actually solve it."

Trump’s plays to tighten his grip on the GOP come the same week a federal appeals court denied him presidential immunity, increasing his legal jeopardy and the likelihood of a criminal trial before the election over his actions to reverse his loss four years ago. A Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll in January found that 53% of swing state voters wouldn’t support Trump if he were found guilty of a crime. That gives Trump even more motivation to seal the nomination, with Haley continuing her White House bid to swoop in if he’s convicted. 

Haley continuing to stay in the race “hurts the party and, in a way, hurts the country," Trump told reporters Thursday at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, adding that he thinks her bid is “dying."

Read More: Trump’s Insults and Rants Mask a Ruthlessly Efficient Campaign

The former president has become more emboldened after last month’s victories in Iowa and New Hampshire that signaled he is virtually certain to win the nomination. Polls show Trump is likely to trounce Haley in the Feb. 24 primary in South Carolina, where she once served as governor. Her campaign has said she intends to compete through early March and continues to fundraise.

Party Shakeup

To Trump critics, his recent meddling in Congress and the party committee only highlights the cult of personality he encourages and a demand for fidelity above all else.

“In New Hampshire, all he had to do was congratulate Haley and turn his attention to the general election," David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Barack Obama. “Instead, he went on a rampage and reminded people of all of the things that they worry about with him."

That loyalty test is playing out at the RNC, where Trump and his allies are ousting chairwoman Ronna McDaniel — whom Trump picked for the role after she helped him win Michigan in 2016 — amid complaints that she has not done enough to raise money for the 2024 election.

The frontrunner to replace McDaniel is Michael Whatley, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, according to people familiar with the talks. Whatley has boosted Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 president election.

The former president also would like Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to his campaign, to join the RNC, so the party and Trump campaign can carry out a unified operation, according to people briefed on the talks. LaCivita did not respond to requests for comment.

Bill Palatucci, a RNC member from New Jersey and Trump critic, defended the party’s fundraising. 

“It is pretty routine in a year leading up to the primary, and when the party does not have the White House, for the party’s own fundraising to take a hit," he said in an interview. “Donors large and small are supporting candidates they want for president. Trump is sucking the oxygen, as well as the money, out the room."

Corporate Engagement

On the business front, executives have reached out to former Trump administration officials in recent weeks, looking to book meetings with people who could serve in a second Trump term. Some have offered to make donations to fund his reelection bid.

Many corporate leaders had refrained from supporting Trump because they assumed Haley, or another candidate, could emerge as a serious challenger. They are now eager to build relationships with the Trump team, said one lobbyist close to the discussions.

“In 2016, in the world and businesses, no one took his candidacy seriously," said David Urban, a lobbyist who advised Trump in prior elections. “Everyone knows that there is a better than 50-50 shot he becomes president, and no one wants to be left scrambling."

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 09 Feb 2024, 12:00 AM IST
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