Republican Lawmakers Make Florida Trek to Win Over Trump's Support Ahead of 2022

Former President Donald Trump's tony water-side estate on the Florida coastline has become the endpoint of a pilgrimage for Republican lawmakers hoping to hold onto his decreasing—but fiercely loyal—base as they scope out the future of the GOP and what role Trump will play in it.

U.S. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise have made the trip, and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is scheduled to head to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort this weekend. All three were key Trump allies during his administration, and those close to them have described the meetings as mostly informal plotting ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, where Trump could play a crucial role in whether Republicans are able to reclaim control of the U.S. House, Senate or both during President Joe Biden's administration.

Those familiar with the meetings have declined to comment on the record on what they expect from Trump, but the former president could play an outsized role in the midterms—backing candidates, fundraising and possibly even doing campaign ads for candidates who could use a pro-Trump boost.

Historically, a new president's party has taken a hit in midterm elections—a looming threat to President Joe Biden's plans to reverse much of Trump's actions and continue addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

Sixteen Senate Republicans are up for reelection in 2022, and House members, all of whom get two-year terms, also will appear on ballots across the country.

Trump has set up his post-presidency office at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, where he's been spotted playing golf and chatting with VIPs. He has given a few interviews, recently calling into Fox News after the death of conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh. He's also talked to far-right outlets Newsmax and One America News Network, which he praised in the final months of his term.

A spokesperson for Trump's "Office of the 45th President" declined to comment on the rounds that he's been making when reached by Newsweek.

Sources close to both Scalise and McCarthy described to Newsweek their visits being general and not on any specific topic but meant to keep the lines of communication open. Both McCarthy and Scalise could potentially be in line to become House speaker if Republicans reclaim the U.S. House. Both have previously jockeyed for the post before Democrats won control two years into Trump's tenure.

Scalise, who narrowly survived a shooting during practice for the Congressional Baseball Game in 2017, has particularly stayed in Trump's good graces, even as McCarthy has faced reports of clashes with Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who won reelection last year after receiving Trump's endorsement, appears less concerned with Trump's approval and has distanced himself from the former president since violent riots erupted at the Capitol on January 6. He isn't expected to make the same effort to court Trump's future support. U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican who voted in favor of Trump's impeachment after the siege, also isn't expected to visit him.

Trump hasn't ruled out a run for President in 2024. During his interviews, he continued to repeat that he thought the election was stolen from him—a claim that helped prompt the Capitol riots.

"We were robbed. It was a rigged election," he told OANN.

On Fox News he said, "You would have had riots going all over the place if that happened to a Democrat."

Graham's office didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment on his plans for the weekend visit.

After hundreds of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and the then-president continued tweeting his support for them, Trump was banned from Twitter, previously his favorite medium for commenting directly on various topics.

Polls show Trump's popularity has taken a sharp downturn since the riots. The latest polling analysis from FiveThirtyEight, which is based on an average of recent credible polls shows Trump has a 57.9 disapproval rating, compared to 38.6 percent approval. But his base has largely remained in tact and could prove crucial for Republicans looking to topple Biden's agenda. On President's Day, Trump supporters crowded outside Mar-a-Lago to show their continued support.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, an arm of the Republican party that doles out campaign cash for Republicans running for U.S. House seats, reported to the Federal Elections Commission at the start of 2021 that it has more than $12.6 million in the bank.

Its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, reported that it had nearly $21 million.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is the only GOP senator up for reelection who voted to convict Trump during his recent unsuccessful impeachment trial. In addition to Cheney, who McCarthy has defended for her vote, nine other Republican House members voted to impeach Trump.

Trump supporters
Supporters of former President Donald Trump gather along Southern Blvd near Trump's Mar-a-Lago home on February 15, 2021 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The rally participants lined the street on President's Day to show support for him after his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. Joe Raedle/Getty