Former President Trump remains a kingmaker in the Republican Party, but Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s (R-OH) premature retirement serves as another kind of victory for the former president who is laser-focused on ousting Republicans who fall on the spectrum opposite of his endorsement, namely the ten who voted to impeach him.
Gonzalez, a 36-year-old Cuban American, and former NFL player, was considered a rising star in the GOP by some. His decision to step away is critically symbolic of the influence the former president continues to have on the fractured Republican Party.
“1 down, 9 to go!” Trump said in a statement Friday, referring to the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him.
“RINO Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, who has poorly represented his district in the Great State of Ohio, has decided to quit after enduring a tremendous loss of popularity, of which he had little, since his ill-informed and otherwise very stupid impeachment vote against the sitting President of the United States, me,” the former president followed up in a second statement.
“RINO Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, who has poorly represented his district in the Great State of Ohio, has decided to quit after enduring a tremendous loss of popularity, of which he had little, since his ill-informed and otherwise very stupid impeachment vote… pic.twitter.com/w84y0UIelE
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) September 17, 2021
Gonzalez’s unexpected exit will likely fuel the success of candidates whose ideologies more closely mirror Trump’s as the 212-member House GOP Conference barrels towards the 2022 midterms. It’s not merely speculation either.
Though Gonzalez is the first of the ten to retire, Trumpian candidates– especially those who garner his endorsement– are expected to continue to win primary races, and then general elections across the U.S.
This would have been a challenging reality for Gonzalez, who was gearing up to campaign for re-election in his Northeast Ohio district against former White House aide and Trump-backed Max Miller.
“[He] couldn’t win the primary. Trump got him,” one House GOP colleague told The Hill.
“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
See my full statement below regarding my decision not to seek re-election. pic.twitter.com/vsggxjD1FI
— Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (@RepAGonzalez) September 17, 2021
Gonzalez was more unchained in an interview with The New York Times where he called Trump a “cancer for the country.”
Very few people rushed to support Gonzalez in light of his announcement, but the ringleader of the impeachment vote and public enemy of former President Trump, Liz Cheney, spoke out on Gonzalez’s decision on Twitter.
“America needs serious principled leaders of character like my friend and colleague, Anthony Gonzalez. His courageous dedication to the Constitution has been an example for all Americans. He will be a major force in our nation’s politics and government for many years to come,” Cheney wrote.
America needs serious principled leaders of character like my friend and colleague, Anthony Gonzalez. His courageous dedication to the Constitution has been an example for all Americans. He will be a major force in our nation’s politics and government for many years to come. https://t.co/fvu7OWJHf1
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) September 17, 2021
In true theatrical fashion, Cheney added that Gonzalez’s decision was a reminder the Trump is at war with the Constitution.
On Constitution Day, Donald Trump’s statement about Rep. Anthony Gonzalez reminds us all, once again, that Trump is at war with the Constitution.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) September 17, 2021
Trump’s plans to unseat the other Republican traitors are already in motion. Last week, he announced his support for Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman in the GOP primary against Cheney.
Trump also has endorsed at least two other Republicans seeking to unseat incumbent GOP congressmen who backed impeachment in January, according to The Hill.
Trump is backing Joe Kent, a Washington state Republican and veteran, in his run to unseat Rep. Herrera Beutler next year. He’s also backed state Rep. Steve Carra in his primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).
Others who voted “yea” on impeachment, including Rep. John Katko (R-NY), David Valadao (R-CA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Peter Meijer (R-MI) have not yet seen Trump’s endorsement of challengers in their own races.
Of the seven senators who voted for Trump’s impeachment, just Lisa Murkowski of Alaska plans to run for reelection in 2022 and Trump has already begun his campaign to sabotage her run.
President Joe Biden isn’t doing Democrats or RINOs any favors either. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that Biden was “underwater on job approval and handling of key issues”.
“Trump remains hugely popular with our base. Many of the objectors are in for a long tough fight,” Rep. Billy Long, a Trump ally in Missouri told The Hill.
In August, Trump-backed lobbyist Mike Carey won the special Republican primary to replace former Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, defeating 10 other hopefuls; another indicator of the former president’s lasting influence on the party.
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