With eleventh-hour endorsement, Trump confirms McCarthy’s victory reflects his own GOP influence

050417 McCarthy takes Trumps advice-pic
President Donald Trump hugs House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

With eleventh-hour endorsement, Trump confirms McCarthy’s victory reflects his own GOP influence

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Have two years of thankless groveling, gratitude, and bending the knee toward former President Donald Trump paid off for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)? Maybe on the fourth vote for House speaker — it is the first time in a century it has required multiple ballots to determine the second in line to the presidency — McCarthy will finally reap the reward of his obeisance to the former president. But until Wednesday morning, Trump seemed keen to let the California congressman fail.

When NBC News asked Trump on Tuesday evening whether he could continue to back McCarthy, who faces the obdurate opposition of a little more than a dozen Trump-aligned House members, Trump remained intentionally opaque, saying, “We’ll see what happens.”

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“I got everybody calling me wanting my support,” Trump told NBC. “But let’s see what happens, and we’ll go — I got everybody calling, wanting my support. That’s all I can say. But we’ll see what happens. We’ll see how it all works out.”

Within 14 hours came Trump’s about-face, posted on Truth Social.

“Some really good conversations took place last night, and it’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY, & WATCH CRAZY NANCY PELOSI FLY BACK HOME TO A VERY BROKEN CALIFORNIA, THE ONLY SPEAKER IN U.S. HISTORY TO HAVE LOST THE ‘HOUSE’ TWICE!” Trump posted on his social media platform. “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB — JUST WATCH!”

Is the GOP’s recuperation of razor-thin control of the House, while the underwater president managed to expand his Senate control amid the highest inflation in 40 years, really such a “GREAT TRIUMPH.” Of course not, but Trump’s eleventh-hour endorsement (or recommitment to his endorsement) of McCarthy comes because Trump’s future success is directly tethered to McCarthy’s future success.

There’s the matter that much of the opposition to McCarthy stems from him rubber-stamping grotesque spending bills specifically pushed by Trump as president, but more practically, if Trump cannot propel McCarthy over the finish line, what does that say about Trump’s influence over the GOP? The only real asset Trump, who turns 77 this year, has over his prospective opponents is not his success in general elections (consider that he lost the House in 2018, Electoral College in 2020, Senate in 2021, and then blew the 2022 midterm elections with his endorsements), but rather his ability to man the bully pulpit for internecine warfare. If Trump cannot browbeat even Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) into submission, how could he do so to much more formidable foes such as Ron DeSantis?

Outside of the Beltway in the living rooms of Main Street, there’s the obvious fact that the Republican Party continues to look like the agents of chaos in comparison to the Democrats. Ordinary folks may not focus on the minutiae of omnibus spending bills and congressional procedure, but they sure as hell do understand that whereas Nancy Pelosi was able to shut down the squad, Trump cannot even get his bigger boosters to let a new term of Congress proceed.

If McCarthy does finally win the speakership, he does have Trump, in part, to thank, but don’t let that distract from the obvious fact that Trump is doubling down on McCarthy not for McCarthy’s sake but for his own.

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