Donald Trump Faces Growing GOP Revolt

Former President Donald Trump could be sensing a revolt from within the Republican Party, having faced criticism from his own former running mate and lashed out at senators attempting to reform a key election law.

Republican figures are "putting distance between themselves and Donald Trump," one Washington analyst told Newsweek on Tuesday; however another commented that many are "too afraid of their own voters to stage any kind of takedown of Trump from the top."

While Trump remains a very powerful figure in the GOP, and polls show he's the favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, he has repeatedly clashed with members of his own party in recent weeks. He is likely to play a major role in 2022 midterm election campaigns, endorsing candidates and appearing on the trail to support them, despite ongoing conflicts with others inside the party.

Former Vice President Mike Pence offered his strongest criticism of Trump yet in a speech to the Federalist Society in Florida on February 4. Pence rebuked Trump for his repeated claims that, as vice president, he could have rejected Electoral College votes during the certification process on January 6, 2021.

"President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election," he said.

Trump responded with a statement slamming Pence, saying: "I was right and everyone knows it," on the issue of the vice president's capacity to reject the Electoral College.

The former president also used his statement to criticize potential reforms of the 1887 Electoral Count Act and criticized "Democrats and RINOS [Republicans in Name Only]," who he said were "working feverishly together" to change the law.

A bipartisan group of around 15 Senate lawmakers, led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, has been discussing changes to the Electoral Count Act with a group of senior Democrats including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is confident that a deal can be reached.

The Electoral Count Act deals with the process for counting Electoral College votes following a presidential election, and Trump has repeatedly railed against any reforms to it.

In perhaps another sign that some in the GOP are moving away from Trump, a number of prominent senators have criticized the Republican National Committee (RNC) for censuring Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney—both strong critics of Trump and the only GOP members of the House select committee investigating last year's insurrection.

All of this comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be a rising star in the Republican Party, with his odds of winning the next presidential election improving considerably over the past year, according to bookmakers.

There have also been a number of media reports about a "feud" between Trump and DeSantis, although both sides have denied there is any animosity between them.

The Republican Party's Soul

Mark Shanahan is an associate professor at the Department of Politics and International Relations at Reading University in the U.K. and co-editor of The Trump Presidency: From Campaign Trail to World Stage. He told Newsweek that there seemed to be "schisms" in the Republican Party.

"The GOP seems to be split as the fight goes on for its soul," Shanahan said. "Many Republicans were getting set for midterm campaigns—or even runs for national office in '24—by putting distance between themselves and Donald Trump, or at least excluding him from their conversations."

"But then on Monday, the RNC, driven by Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, plunged into the January 6 insurrection debate once again by censuring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger," he said.

Political Gravity

"What's notable is the pushback McDaniel has received for her actions," Shanahan went on. "Many congressional Republicans don't want Trump to feature in party or policy conversations now. The House investigation is circling; lawsuits against the former president aren't going away, and his claim of a stolen election isn't getting any more credibility."

Shanahan said that while Republicans running for Congress "still fear Trump's power" over the GOP, "there are definite signs of a schism—reinforced by recent comments by Mike Pence and Chris Christie."

Former Christie, former governor of New Jersey and a one-time close Trump ally—said on Monday that the January 6 Capitol riot "was incited by Donald Trump in an effort to intimidate Mike Pence."

"Every former president's power over their party wanes over time," Shanahan said.

"Logic suggests Trump's should, too. Of course, he has defied political logic in the past, but the signs are that political gravity is definitely starting to reel him in—while potential rivals such as Florida's Ron DeSantis appear to be gaining energy from Trump's continuing struggles," he said.

A GOP Mutiny?

Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics, told Newsweek he doubted that the Republican Party was poised to rebel against Trump.

"From the Russia investigation, to the Zelnskyy call, to January 6, the notion that the GOP is always just a moment away from a full-out mutiny against Trump is a refrain we've heard over and over from experts," Gift said.

"The only problem: It never happens," he said.

Trump was impeached in 2019 over a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy, in which he appeared to pressure the foreign leader to investigate Joe Biden, while special counsel Robert Mueller probed alleged links between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia.

Gift said that the Republican Party of 2022 "remains the Party of Trump."

"I'll believe there's a revolt against Trump when there's a revolt against Trump," he said.

"At the moment, however, GOP voters remain too enamored with Trump to abandon him," Gift continued. "And Republican politicians remain too afraid of their own voters to stage any kind of takedown of Trump from the top."

"So to my mind, the 'this time is different' argument is hard to take seriously," Gift said.

Donald Trump Speaks to CPAC
Former President Donald Trump prepares to speak during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held at the Hilton Anatole on July 11, 2021, in Dallas, Texas. Trump has railed against some members of his own party in recent weeks. Brandon Bell/Getty Images