(WASHINGTON) — Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee Tuesday added a new layer of political consequences for Donald Trump after she detailed a defiant president she said wanted to lead supporters from his rally on the Ellipse to the Capitol even after being warned they were armed.
There are political ramifications as well for several vulnerable members of Congress, notably five of the 35 GOP members of the House of Representatives who voted in May 2021 in favor of a bipartisan commission to probe what surrounded the attack on U.S. Capitol and who faced a primary or runoff contest Tuesday night.
Of the group of five, four survived, with one loss.
Of the total group, 16 of the 35 have advanced from their early contests, three have lost, while nine others resigned or retired.
Inconsistent results in these primaries show Republican voters’ political fealty is unclear: Are they steadfastly loyal to Trump or are they satisfied with elements of Trumpism paired with more home-grown politics? The answer to that question is a sword of Damocles for many of these candidates — having to assess whether breaking party ranks will come back to bite them.
It’s critical to note that support of a bipartisan probe has not equated to full-throated endorsement of the current House bipartisan Jan. 6 committee.
In fact, one of the commission supporters, Rep. Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma, who won Tuesday night, recently called the public hearings a “dangerous, political stunt,” similar to what Trump himself has said. (Such line-toeing rhetoric can be a firewall against attacks from a Trump-endorsed challenger — or accusations of being a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
Similar tactics likely aided Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., fend off a challenge from Navy pilot Michael Cassidy in his runoff election as well as Utah’s Rep. Blake Moore, who claimed his vote was to back the commission investigating Capitol security decisions made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Sometimes, even not criticizing the Jan. 6 committee didn’t hurt. Rep. John Curtis, of Utah, said of Hutchinson’s testimony: “It was an extremely credible witness, but you always want to hear from other side.”
At the time of his vote on the commission, Curtis, who won his primary Tuesday night, called the original measure to create one “imperfect.”
Not all firewalls were as strong, though, as was the case with Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis who was bested by Trump-backed Rep. Mary Miller, who attacked Davis for stabbing “Trump in the back by voting for the sham January 6th commission.” Ironically enough, Davis congratulated Trump and Miller in his concession speech.
These Republicans losing their races Tuesday may not be entirely sad news for Democrats, regardless if they’ve nationally stood with any anti-Trump sentiment on principle.
Several deep-pocketed left-wing donors, with the help of national groups, have bolstered election-denying right-wing candidates, seemingly in the hope of a more decisive general election victory against an easier-to-beat foe come November.
In Illinois’ gubernatorial race, for example, incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association spent $30 million in ads attacking moderate Republican challenger Richard Irvin, in turn raising the profile of Trump-endorsed candidate state Sen. Darren Bailey.
The Democrats’ ploy worked out in their favor — Bailey bested Irvin in the primary. But such political puppeteering is dangerous and can easily backfire with an electorate that is seeing historically high numbers of Republican voter registrants coupled with historically low approval numbers for President Joe Biden across a flurry of sectors.
Consequences are just as stark across the aisle.
The 80% survival rate of these Republicans is an early smoke signal in GOP races with even higher political stakes: the August primaries of Washington House Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Hererra Beutler, alongside Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, and Wyoming Liz Cheney – four of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.
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