Donald Trump and wealthy Republicans huddled behind closed doors to discuss GOP unity – a challenging topic given Trump’s attacks on certain party members over last year’s election loss.
Trump again called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “a loser” in a Saturday night speech to the Republican National Committee spring retreat, according to people in the room. The ex-president also echoed plans to endorse allies and target enemies in GOP primaries next year, threatening party divisions ahead of the 2022 congressional elections.
While describing McConnell as a “stone cold loser,” and attacking Republicans for refusing to back his election protests, Trump also told the party’s wealthiest donors that they should pursue his agenda in future elections.
Trump-hosted dinner. On Sunday, the Republican retreat attendees headed home.
The RNC closed all retreat activities to the press.
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The Saturday schedule at the retreat included an event called a “Party Unity Panel,” one of the challenges facing Republicans this election cycle.
In another departure from previous ex-presidents, Trump is endorsing allies running in party primaries, often to retaliate against Republicans who favored impeachment after the Jan. 6 insurrection by pro-Trump protesters at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump has also repeatedly attacked Republicans who criticized his efforts to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden, particularly Senate Republican leader and party kingmaker McConnell. He also vowed to support a primary challenger next year to another speech target, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
Other Republicans – including Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a member of House GOP leadership who voted for impeachment – have urged the party to move past Trump.
took a special trip to Palm Beach two months ago to speak with Trump about the 2022 elections – hosted a dinner Friday night at the RNC retreat in Palm Beach.At CPAC, Donald Trump targets the Republican Party of Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell
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Planners devoted other Saturday panels to items most Republicans can agree on, including “Big Tech Censorship” and “Growing The Party.” The latter topic is important for a party that has struggled with women and voters of color, which led to difficulties in the suburbs in Trump’s defeat last year.
Party members who attended the retreat, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings, said GOP members believe they can work out problems between Trump and anti-Trump Republicans. “Our folks still like him,” one Republican said.
The 2024 presidential race is also on the minds of some Republicans.
Prospective presidential candidates who signed up for the retreat include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, , and both of Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio.
They are firmly behind Trump, and that could lead to defeats like the one he took in last year’s presidential election.
Trump’s control is obvious because “everyone who is considering running for president is making the pilgrimage to Florida to kiss the ring and, more importantly, echo Trump’s rhetoric,” said Republican strategist Doug Heye.
“Those who have been critical of Trump – people like me – are the outliers,” Heye added
Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman and now a Trump critic, said GOP members who oppose the ex-president have either left the party or given up.
Said Walsh: “It’s a unified, shrinking, dying party.”