The cultural and political battle lines are drawn. This weekend’s CPAC will not be the “conservative” yearly meeting, as implied by its name. No, rather it will be a Trumpian love fest, featuring right-wingers cut in the Trump mold and singing that song. The mainstream, old school Republicans, such as Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell will not be in attendance. Donald Trump will give the keynote speech and it is advertised in advance that he will be 1) doubling down on his election Big Lie and 2) dissing Mitch McConnell, because he sees his new quest as toppling McConnell as the head of the party. For his part, McConnell is weary of Trump and ignoring him, while he focuses on the reality of the 2022 election and trying to win back his majority role in the Senate. Politico:
The crumbled alliance between Trump and McConnell, who worked hand-in-glove on political and legislative strategy for four years, has finally brought the GOP to the reckoning that never happened after the 2016 election. Trump may take another swipe at McConnell in the coming days at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But McConnell probably won’t hear it: He is not expected to speak at CPAC, according to Republican sources. McConnell still hasn’t spoken to Trump in more than two months.
And interviews with nearly a dozen Senate Republicans on Monday night make clear that it will take more than a war of words with Trump to knock McConnell off his perch. Both Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), the two most likely successors to McConnell at the moment, back him vocally. […]
Asked if he agreed with McConnell’s criticisms of Trump, Cornyn said: “I’m looking forward to the day we can move on to other things.” He said he had no plans to visit Trump in Florida, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have done in recent days.
The split in the party is evident, with GOPers either fawning all over Trump as the future of the party, or tacitly going along with the McConnell/Romney/Sasse/Cheney contingent, who have cut Trump loose in no uncertain terms.
For all the fanfare that the Trump-McConnell battle has received over the past two weeks, the ultimate referendum on who will guide the party won’t come for at least a year, until GOP Senate primaries begin unfolding in earnest. And McConnell’s willingness to wade into GOP primaries this cycle against Trump-backed candidates he sees as unelectable presages brutal internecine battles over control of the Senate on the Republican side. […]
If McConnell is as toxic among Republican voters as Trump’s loyalists claim, it would be most obvious in deep-red states. But two GOP senators up for reelection in conservative states, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Mike Crapo of Idaho, both said they still support McConnell as GOP leader on Monday.
Mike Braun of Indiana says “let time be our friend” which can be interpreted as Trump’s influence waning over the months and years ahead, and things settling down in the GOP to something resembling past normalcy. Then there’s Josh Hawley who says that “there is no civil war” and people don’t want to go back to an earlier day in the party — which would seem to contradict the McConnell leadership position. But Hawley is an opportunistic fruitcake who thinks that he’s going to jump on board the Trump/QAnon float and ride at the head of the parade by doing so.
Many bets are being placed on Trump v. McConnell but only one thing is sure at this point: Trump will continue to repeat his stolen election Big Lie and McConnell will continue to go against that posture, because the undermining of faith in elections is what “undercut” the GOP in Georgia and lost McConnell the majority. That will not be forgotten easily or quickly.
So expect wingnuttery to rule at CPAC, starting Thursday and running through the weekend. Representative Paul Gosar — who has claimed that the violence in Charlottesville was funded by George Soros and has reported ties with far-right street thugs — and anti-shutdown gym owner Ian Smith, who used a megaphone with a white-supremacist sticker on it last summer, will be there. And Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes and Charlie Kirk and Jon Voight and Ben Carson and all the others that you’ve come to know and loathe. But you won’t find Pence or McConnell, so take that for what it’s worth.