Mar-a-Lago has become the center of the Republican Party’s universe, as Donald Trump uses his Florida resort as a base of operations to pursue what Bloomberg calls his long-held priorities: “Identify enemies, encourage rivalries and raise money toward his own political goals, whether it’s good for the broader party agenda or not.”
In recent weeks, GOP power brokers like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Governor Kristi Noem, and Senators Mike Lee & Lindsay Graham have flocked to Mar-a-Lago. Republican political wannabes are planning to hold fundraisers there, and The Washington Post recently reported that the Republican National Committee is moving part of its spring donor retreat to the resort. Even conservative media personalities like Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson have recently relocated to South Florida, according to Politico.
The access-to-power appeal of what Trump had dubbed “the Southern White House” underscores the former president’s influence on the party and it has some Republican operatives alarmed, according to multiple reports. Trump has rarely yielded to GOP establishment priorities, which are currently aimed at taking back the House majority in 2022.
Earlier this month, Trump lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to the RNC, NRCC and NRSC, telling the three leading GOP fundraising organizations that they must stop using Trump’s name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise. The former president is apparently hellbent on punishing the ten House Republicans who voted for his second impeachment. Politico explains:
According to three people familiar with the planning, Trump will soon begin vetting candidates at Mar-a-Lago who are eager to fulfill his promise to exact vengeance upon incumbent Republicans who’ve scorned him, and to ensure every open GOP seat in the 2022 midterms has a MAGA-approved contender vying for it.
If Trump’s preferred candidates win their Republicans primaries, they might have a hard time competing in general elections; dabbling in discredited conspiracy theories and fringe positions might excite Trump and his base, but it’s a different story when the entire electorate votes. And there’s already glaring signs that Trumpism is a weight on the GOP’s ambition – just look at the results of the senate runoff in Georgia.
Bloomberg, quoting Republican consultant Doug Heye, explains the GOP’s fraught dependency on the loser of the 2020 presidential election :
Trump’s moves leave the GOP committees and Republicans who are wary of his attempts to dominate the party and its direction in a tough position, Heye said. “They can only be so aggressive, they don’t want to get in a civil war with Trump,” he added. “They hate this, but they can’t escalate things.”