When Donald Trump lashed out at Republican Senators Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham in mean spirited fashion this morning, I predicted – as did others – that it would only serve to further erode any desire on the part of the GOP to continue covering for him (link). Sure enough, just a few hours later a conservative Republican Senator from a deeply red state is publicly ripping into Trump, going so far as to question his mental stability.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee was once rumored to be in contention for Donald Trump’s cabinet. But at this point Corker has had enough. This afternoon he stated that Trump has not “been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful” (link). He also added that Trump “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation.” The anti-Trump crowd may see this as too little too late to redeem Corker in their eyes. But there’s a much larger point here.
This morning Donald Trump informally endorsed a far-right Republican primary challenger to Senator Jeff Flake, who is up for reelection in Arizona in 2018. Trump is trying to keep the Republican Congress in line by using the last ditch effort of threatening their jobs. But Bob Corker, who is also up for reelection in 2018 in Tennessee, clearly doesn’t feel intimidated by Trump’s threats. Instead he’s coming out swinging with arguably the most negative words that any Republican Senator has publicly spoken about Trump yet.
These kinds of stances from conservative Republican leaders, particularly someone as powerful as Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, help to shape public opinion. Some conservative Americans who have been leery about Trump will take this as a sign that it’s okay for them to give up on him as well. This can drive his approval rating even lower than it’s already fallen, thus laying the groundwork for his possible ouster. So it’s important to keep tracking these kinds of statements from leading Republicans.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report