Loyalty to Trump Becomes the Issue in GOP Primaries

James Hohmann: “Fealty to Trump has become more of a litmus test than ever for Republicans. Emboldened by private polling and focus groups that show the president is incredibly popular with the base, GOP candidates are stepping up attacks on their rivals over any daylight they’ve shown with Trump, even if it stemmed from his personal conduct toward women or apostasy on traditional conservative orthodoxy. It’s another illustration of the degree to which Trumpism has come to define the Republican Party. This is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. It’s the party of Donald J. Trump.”

Quote of the Day

“The president is, as you know — you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base — it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature. People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not.”

— Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

‘Why I’m Leaving the GOP’

Former Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI) writes in the Honolulu Civil Beat:

Today, after much consideration, I abandon my party because I am unwilling to abandon my principles. I can no longer stand with a Republican Party that is led by a man I firmly believe is taking the party of Lincoln in a direction I fundamentally disagree with, and a party that is unwilling to stand up to him.

I have long believed that America’s strength lies in our nation’s diversity — not its exclusion or isolation. We are a nation of immigrants and benefit from a national fabric woven with the threads of many people, of many backgrounds and cultures, all united in the common belief and love of American liberty. That’s why I championed immigration reform as a congressman.

It disturbs me that the Republican Party under President Donald Trump is now defined as a party hostile to immigration. We are the leader of the free world, not because we are great (or need to be great again), but because we are good.

Quote of the Day

“I think one of the really sad realizations over the last year is not what kind of a president Donald Trump turns out to be — I think it was all too predictable — but rather, how many members of Congress would be unwilling to stand up to him, and more than that, would be completely willing to carry water for him. That is a very sad realization. I did not expect that. I thought there would be more Jeff Flakes, more John McCains, more Bob Corkers.”

— Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), in an interview with Politico.

RNC Builds an Army for November Elections

“Flush with cash and bracing for a challenging midterm election season, the Republican National Committee is preparing to deploy more staffers on the ground in key races than it has at this point in any election in the party’s history,” NBC News reports.

“The RNC will add an additional 170 permanent staffers to its field program by the end of March, more than doubling the number already in the field to over 300. And the party expects to add 200 more before before the start of the summer.”

No Republicans on the Utah Ballot this Year?

“Imagine this year’s ballot with no Utah candidates listed as Republicans,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

“Or, alternatively, the ballot listing only those Republicans who gathered signatures, while others who went through the GOP convention are shut out.”

“Republicans say those scenarios are a growing possibility now that the Legislature failed to pass a bill designed to fix problems caused by a recent bylaw change adopted by the Republican State Central Committee.”

Are Never Trumpers Still Republicans?

Matt Bai: “A year into Trump’s presidency, Republican activists in the rest of the country seem to have rallied around his politics of grievance, while in Washington, conservative thinkers who once ran the country huddle together in exile. Now it’s Kristol and his contemporaries who find themselves on the frontier side of the border.”

“I asked Kristol if he could still call himself a Republican, and whether he would if Trump was reelected in 2020.”

“The answer to the first question, he said, was yes. The answer to the second was no.”

No Longer a Conservative

Max Boot: “In the past I would have been indignant at such attacks and eager to assert my conservative credentials. I spent years writing for conservative publications such as the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Commentary magazine and working as a foreign policy adviser for three Republican presidential campaigns. Being conservative used to be central to my identity. But now, frankly, I don’t give a damn. I prefer to think of myself as a classical liberal, because ‘conservative’ has become practically synonymous with ‘Trump lackey.'”

“If this is what mainstream conservatism has become — and it is — count me out.”

No Regrets for Speaking at CPAC

Mona Charen writes about getting booed off the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday:

I’d been dreading it for days, but when it came, I almost welcomed it. There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth. And it must be done, again and again, by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism, by those of us who refuse to overlook the fools, frauds and fascists attempting to glide along in his slipstream into respectability.

I spoke to a hostile audience for the sake of every person who has watched this spectacle of mendacity in disbelief and misery for the past two years. Just hearing the words you know are true can serve as ballast, steadying your mind when so much seems unreal.

Conservative Writer Stuns with Fiery Rebuke of Trump

National Review writer Mona Charen “was escorted out of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday after slamming President Trump and conservatives for behaving like ‘hypocrites’ when it comes to women’s issues,” the Washington Examiner reports.

Said Charen: “I’m disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are sitting in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women.”

According to the Weekly Standard, she added: “This is the party that endorsed the Roy Moore for the Senate in the state of Alabama, even though he was a credibly-accused child molester. You cannot claim that you stand for women and be all right with that.”

“Charen’s comments were met with heavy boos inside the conference hall, and she was later spotted leaving the conference with a three-person security detail.”

RNC Pays Trump Campaign’s Rent at Trump Tower

“Soon after the RNC came under pressure for paying legal bills for President Trump and his eldest son in the special counsel’s Russia probe, it started covering expenses for the president’s re-election campaign,” CNBC reports.

“The RNC is using campaign funds to pay Trump’s company more than $37,000 a month in rent, and to pay thousands of dollars in monthly salary to Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew, John Pence, party officials confirmed this week. The rent pays for office space in the Trump Tower in New York for the staff of Trump’s re-election campaign. John Pence is the Trump campaign’s deputy executive director.”

The arrangement “is highly unusual but legal, and it appears the RNC disclosed it correctly.”

Conservative Supervillains Take Stage at CPAC

Matt Lewis: “The organizers of CPAC apparently searched the four corners of the globe to assemble a ‘legion of doom’-style roster — a collection of some of the worst ‘conservative’ supervillains who generally share a populist, ethno-nationalist brand of politics (and some, I assume, are good people). Of course, it’s not just Le Pen. The lineup is a veritable murderer’s row of nationalists, including UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Jeanine Pirro, and Seb Gorka—and a panel titled: ‘Kim Jong Un-iversity: How College Campuses are Turning into Reeducation Camps.’”