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“They can recommend whatever they want,” but Trump sets policy from a position of strength




“They can recommend whatever they want,” but Trump sets policy from a position of strength

After the House Republican Study Committee released an election-year policy package last month that proposed raising the retirement age, John McLaughlin, a veteran pollster who advised former President Donald Trump, said it was “not a good idea.”

The former president and presumptive Republican Party nominee, he told POLITICO, will be “the dominant voice in the Republican Party for what Republicans stand for.” It’s not the candidates who are downvoting with suggestions that contradict Trump’s policies.

“They can recommend whatever they want,” he said. “But unless they convince him to change his position, that won’t happen.”

Strategists in Trump’s inner circle argue that he sets policy for the party — and view some of the positions championed by conservatives on Capitol Hill and elsewhere as politically toxic. But after a presidential primary in which Trump paid no price for bucking hardline conservatives on two key policy issues — abortion and Social Security — they also believe he is navigating from a position of commanding political autonomy.

Trump is coming under increasing pressure to make clear which abortion restrictions he would support, especially from anti-abortion advocates who are calling for national restrictions. Trump announced on Tuesday that he would say more about the issue next week.

But Trump is the rare Republican who has gone unscathed by deviating from Republican orthodoxy. Despite taking credit for installing the Supreme Court justices needed to overturn the case Roe v. WadeTrump has described Florida’s six-week abortion ban as a “terrible thing and a terrible mistake” and said states should decide their own laws. And besides seemingly amusing the idea of ​​cuts to Social Security earlier this year, he has otherwise kept his promise not to touch it, or Medicare.

“He’s just so clearly not a radical on either of these issues that I think it helps protect a lot of Republicans who are more conservative on these issues,” said a Republican strategist with close ties to Trump’s circle of influence, who granted anonymity to discuss to speak. free. “You can’t honestly look at Donald Trump and say Trump is an abortion extremist. No one who is honest believes he is Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum on abortion.”

President Joe Biden’s campaign has attacked Trump for paving the way for a near-complete abortion ban in a number of states. Immediately after a court ruling Monday that allowed a six-week abortion law to take effect in Florida, the reelection campaign declared the state “Ground Zero for Trump’s MAGA Blueprint” and began airing anti-abortion ads against him. Biden advisers said they view Florida, which has become increasingly red, as “winnable” in November, when voters will now weigh in on a ballot referendum to guarantee the right to abortion up to 24 weeks.

The six-week ban that will soon come into effect – and the referendum that will keep abortion in the news for months – is a risk for Trump, who lives in Palm Beach and is likely to vote on the initiative. In a vague statement on Tuesday, Trump’s campaign said he “supports preserving life, but has also made clear he supports states’ rights because he supports voters’ right to make their own decisions.”

But Trump’s past criticism of the state’s abortion law, which was supported by his former primary rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, could complicate Biden’s efforts to attack him on it. Over the past two years, Trump has resisted calls from some in his party to embrace sweeping abortion restrictions after the fall of America Roo.

And Trump built a political brand in 2016 in part on his promise to protect entitlement programs, a position that became more mainstream among Republicans during his time in office.

“Politically, this is the stupidest possible thing you can say, especially in an election year,” the strategist close to Trump’s operation said of House Republicans’ proposal to raise the retirement age.

The strategist argued that the inevitable Democratic attacks will be difficult to sustain given Trump’s brand on these issues.

“If it were Paul Ryan at the helm, Social Security’s business would be a lot more credible,” the strategist said. “If Mike Pence were to run, so would the abortion issues. But it is Donald Trump who is in power, and he has been quite steadfast in not being far right on any of these issues.”

And in a presidential election year when the Republican Party is trying to maintain its razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives and retake the Senate, the Trump-connected strategist added: “This is where Trump is actually helping Republicans.”

Trump, for his part, endured months of media scrutiny during the Republican Party’s presidential primaries for his refusal to support a federal abortion law. Many of his opponents, including DeSantis, Pence, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and ultimately former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, pledged to sign a 15-week national ban if elected. Trump’s refusal to do so was at odds with prominent anti-abortion groups, even though Trump cruised to the Republican nomination without any discernible support among evangelicals and social conservatives.

Trump recently signaled in Congress that he would be open to supporting a 15-week abortion law, while emphasizing that there should be exceptions for rape, incest and saving the life of a pregnant person.

But he has failed to pass such a ban, and some advisers close to him in the days since suggested that Trump’s embrace of those kinds of measures is hardly a foregone conclusion.

“I think if you asked him now, he would say he agrees with states making their own decisions,” Lara Trump, his daughter-in-law and current co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said in a speech. job interview last week with NBC.

Dave Carney, a longtime Republican strategist on both presidential and presidential elections, said he appreciates that Republican Party policy experts are trying to address the issue of the entitlement program’s insolvency — but that he “would be shocked if this were to happen in the actual legislative budget” this coming year.

“This has taken forever, you have jerks sitting around trying to come up with ideas that will start or continue the conversation,” Carney said. He noted a policy platform released during the 2022 midterm elections by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), then chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, that included raising taxes.

“Do you want to deal with this from a candidate perspective? No,” Carney said. “But it does give you the opportunity to say that you don’t support it.”

“There’s not a member of Congress running for re-election in a remotely competitive race who’s going to talk about these things other than to say, ‘I’m not for it,’” Carney continued. “If it gets too annoying for Trump, I’m sure he’ll put his two cents in and crush it.”