Republicans’ Very Bad Week Distracts From Real Target: Joe Biden

The Republican Party highlight reel from this week features a vitriolic mutiny against its top congressional leader and its presidential frontrunner holed up in court for a fraud trial under a gag order.

(Bloomberg) — The Republican Party highlight reel from this week features a vitriolic mutiny against its top congressional leader and its presidential frontrunner holed up in court for a fraud trial under a gag order.

Those scenes followed a widely panned presidential debate last week that degenerated into a shouting match among the candidates.

A struggle to govern and internal divisions are interfering with the GOP’s ability to leverage one of its greatest advantages — Americans’ dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden’s management of the economy and greater confidence in Republicans on the issue.

A Gallup poll released Tuesday morning showed that a majority of Americans believe that Republicans will do a better job bolstering the economy, giving the party its widest lead over Democrats on that metric in three decades. It is voters’ top concern.

But the drama of the day was the 216 to 210 vote on Tuesday afternoon to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy spurred by the party’s most conservative wing, throwing the House into disarray.

“It gets Republicans off message. They want to talk about the economy. Certainly this isn’t what we want to be talking about. We want to be talking about the Biden administration’s shortcomings,” said Neil Newhouse, a Republican strategist.

With 13 months until the 2024 presidential election, Republicans must convince Americans that the party can govern more effectively than Biden and Democrats. The GOP is still trying to shed the fallout from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, and when 147 of its members voted against certifying Biden’s 2020 electoral victory over Biden.


A week ago, former President Donald Trump skipped the second Republican presidential debate, owing to his more than 40-point polling percentage lead over the rest of the field, leaving the other aspirants to trade barbs and yell over one another on prime time television.

Yet, Trump spent the first few days of the week off the campaign trail, instead inside a New York courtroom fighting charges that he saved a fortune on loan terms by overvaluing his properties.

Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and a staunch Trump ally who is helping to lead an impeachment inquiry against Biden, confirmed on Wednesday that he’s running to replace McCarthy as speaker.

US Representative Steve Womack, an Arkansas Republican, following McCarthy’s ouster, warned of potential for new violence within the Capitol, this time among his fellow GOP lawmakers.

“I fear that the emotions right now are such that this thing could really blow up on our conference. Emotions are high and there are people in there who are not happy,” Womack said. 

Representative Mike Lawler, New York Republican and a vocal critic of Matt Gaetz, called the the Florida Republican’s push to oust McCarthy “shameful,” “disgusting” and “selfish.” He said that Interim Speaker Patrick McHenry’s forceful slamming of the gavel after the vote epitomized the frustration within his party.

“The only thing I would have done differently is flung it in the direction of one person,” Lawler said Tuesday on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power,” referring to Gaetz. “I would have hit him square between the eyes.”

Gaetz did not immediately respond to Lawler’s comments. 

McCarthy’s star-crossed tenure was due in part to Republicans’ underwhelming performance in the 2022 midterm election cycle, when the party won only a slim majority in the House and Democrats bucked history to expand their majority in the US Senate. 

Democrats have countered voter questions about Biden’s age by painting Republicans’ as chaotic and out of step with Americans on their positions.

As part of a January deal to secure the gavel after an extraordinary 15 rounds of voting, McCarthy agreed to allow just one lawmaker to trigger a vote on ousting him. He was removed by hardliners frustrated with his latest bit of bipartisan dealmaking to avert a government shutdown over the weekend. 

Meanwhile, the judge presiding over Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York issued a gag order on all parties from posting online about his staff after the former president attacked the judge’s clerk on his Truth Social platform Tuesday. 

“We need to stop with the charades in the House. We need to stop with the charades on stage. We need to stop with the charades in the courtroom,” said Lisa Camooso Miller, a Republican strategist. “We need to do everything we can to find our directional arrow and get on track.” 


–With assistance from Laura Litvan, Annmarie Hordern, Joe Mathieu, Laura Davison and Maeve Sheehey.

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