Romney congratulated Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, on Saturday, describing them as “people of good will and admirable character.” He was the first Republican senator to refer to Biden as the “president-elect,” but the move was not out of character, considering Romney has been a vocal critic of Trump and voted to impeach the president earlier this year.
From there, it was on to the Sunday talk shows. Speaking to CNN, the Utah Republican said that once Trump’s court cases challenging the result of Tuesday’s election are wrapped up, he believes that the president will “accept the inevitable” and leave office.
However, Romney later told NBC News that Trump will continue to wield an outsize influence on the GOP for some time to come. “He is not disappearing by any means,” Romney said. “He is the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to the Republican Party.”
Romney: "He is not disappearing by any means. He is the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to the Republican Party." pic.twitter.com/K7eo2B1KkC
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 8, 2020
Though Trump remains in the White House, that influence on the party’s future is already making itself felt. Romney represents an older breed of conservatism to Trump’s bombastic populism, one that is amenable to compromising with Democrats. “I congratulate him,” Romney said of Biden on CNN, “but I’m not going to put aside conservative principles.”
Romney elaborated that these principles are ones his party has stuck by for decades: deregulation, opposition to environmental legislation and opposition to socialized healthcare.
However, for an entire wing of the party elevated by the Trump presidency, free-market capitalism and capitulation to Democrats elsewhere will no longer cut it. “DC Elites are eager to return to ‘business as usual,’” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem replied to Romney. “The 70 million Americans who voted for @realDonaldTrump are not moving on just because the media says so,” she added, alleging that there are “serious election integrity concerns (read Alito’s opinion) in several states that the media should be investigating.”
DC Elites are eager to return to "business as usual.”
The 70 million Americans who voted for @realDonaldTrump are not moving on just because the media says so. Serious election integrity concerns (read Alito’s opinion) in several states that the media should be investigating. https://t.co/m2l4AvdWeA
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) November 7, 2020
A pre-election opinion by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito stated that late-arriving ballots in Pennsylvania may still be tossed out. On Friday, Alito ordered these ballots segregated from the rest in case the court rules that way later.
Trump’s allegations of voter fraud and malpractice have been echoed by more of his allies than just Noem. Ohio Representative Jim Jordan is a steadfast ally of Trump, and told Fox News on Saturday that he had identified a “systematic” fraud operation working for Biden in Pennsylvania, a day after calling on the state to completely audit the election.
“President Trump won this election,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told the network a day earlier. “Everyone who is listening: Do not be quiet. Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.”
McCarthy’s call to action was seemingly aimed at the crowds of pro-Trump protesters gathering at state buildings across the nation to demand that their governments “stop the steal.” These protesters turned out on Saturday not just in swing states, but in Republican strongholds like Louisiana and Democrat bastions like Washington.
Trump has also enjoyed support from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Ted Cruz of Texas, among others who arguably owe their popularity or electoral success to his ascendancy in 2016.
Some of the most powerful Republicans seem to be hedging their bets. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose grasp of the upper chamber allowed Trump to appoint judges amid fierce Democrat opposition and easily defeated the impeachment effort against him, took several days to comment on the results of Tuesday’s election.
When he finally weighed in on Friday, McConnell simply said that “every legal vote should be counted,” and “any illegally-submitted ballots must not.” McConnell did not mention Trump’s name, nor did he accuse the Democratic Party of fraud.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, whose fiery defense of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh two years ago helped the party win him a seat on the bench, initially pledged to donate $500,000 to Trump’s legal defense fund. However, Graham evidently had another eye on a post-Trump future, telling reporters on Friday that he would try to find “common ground” with a Biden administration, but would remain “a reliable vote to stop the most radical agenda being pushed by Nancy Pelosi and others in the history of the United States.”
Graham, whose Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating claims of fraud in Pennsylvania, appeared to lean back toward Trump on Sunday. “Trump has not lost,” he told Fox News. “Do not concede, Mr. President, fight hard.”
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