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Sen. Tom Cotton warned Republicans that the party cannot go back to where it was prior to Donald Trump being elected president because doing so would mean electoral losses going forward.
The reason, he said, is because President Trump has managed to expand the GOP’s base to include more minorities and working-class voters, two key demographics that have mostly belonged to Democrats for decades.
“If Republican politicians think we can just go back five years in time and go back to the agenda we had then that was not popular, that resulted in two consecutive and bad presidential defeats, that did not address the concerns of the broad working class of America, then that is a recipe for continuing to lose elections,” Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and U.S. Army veteran, told The Wall Street Journal.
“Republicans won elections down-ballot because of Donald Trump, not in spite of Donald Trump,” Cotton added. “There is no way we would have held the Senate or picked up seats in the House if Donald Trump had not turned out millions and millions of new voters.”
The paper noted that the president got at least 8 million more votes this year than he did in 2016, “evidence his message has appeal.”
Other Republican lawmakers and surrogates agreed that Trump is a rare force that has had a positive impact on the GOP.
“The forces that Trump tapped into are not going away,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres told the WSJ, adding that he believes the president is one-of-a-kind.
“The big challenge politically is to continue to hold the people that Donald Trump brought into the Republican Party, which of course is a pretty dramatic expansion of white working-class voters, and to capture back suburban—especially women—that President Trump drove away,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said.
According to exit polling, however, 55 percent of white women voted for President Trump in 2020 compared to 44 percent for Democratic rival Joe Biden, 2 percent more than in 2016.
Also, several Republican women were elected to Congress this year.
“America needs a real, multi-ethnic working-class party that understands that what may be good for Wall Street and Silicon Valley may not be good for our nation’s workers, communities and families,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who ran for the GOP nomination in 2016 and is expected to do so again at some future point, told the WSJ.
“The Republican Party can be that party if we remain focused on winning the great power competition with China, rebuilding our nation’s industrial capacity and restoring dignified jobs,” he added.
In the future, “someone is going to try to be Donald Trump,” Mike DuHaime, who worked on GOP presidential campaigns for John McCain in 2008 and Chris Christie in 2016, told the paper. “But I think people are going to find out that it’s really hard to be him, unless you are a billionaire, have your name on buildings and your own network television show.”
As for Cotton, he also dismissed the conclusions of the Growth and Opportunity Project following the party’s 2012 election loss — which came to be known as the “autopsy.”
It concluded that the party should take a more inclusive tact when dealing with Americans who disagree with GOP attitudes and policies regarding abortion and same-sex marriage.
“Any Republican who said we need to return to the 2012 autopsy is a fool who will never win national office,” said the Arkansas Republican.
“That autopsy called for an immigration bill that would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants and mass migration to take away American jobs,” Cotton said.
“Just two years later, Donald Trump announced his candidacy on building a wall and he won not just our party’s nomination, but he won the presidency by winning states that no Republican had won in a generation.”
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