Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed The Tennessee Star’s National Political Editor Neil McCabe to the newsmaker line to discuss Republicans running without the endorsement of Trump as Democrats go panic mode.
Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line by the very best national political editor in the country, Neil McCabe. He is the national political editor for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He’s in Phoenix, Arizona, right now and is attending the Republican Governor’s Association. Good morning, Neil.
McCabe: Michael, very good to be with you. We’re on the road.
Leahy: You are on the road.
McCabe: The Star is on the road.
Leahy: (Chuckles) And you’re doing a great job out there, by the way. And congratulations on the outstanding work that you’ve been doing here with The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. We are moving our game up nationwide and getting a lot more attention from the folks at Off the Press and otherwise.
So that’s a lot because of the great outstanding journalism that you do Neil McCabe. Tell us what’s going on at the Republican Governor’s Association and why was it so important for them to make sure that Neil McCabe from The Star News Network was there?
McCabe: I think the big deal for the Republican Governor’s Association is you have a number of guys who are up in 2022 and everybody’s trying to learn the lessons of Youngkin in Virginia. So many people are taking the lesson that, hey, we can win without Trump.
So let’s do that. And we’re seeing ramifications of that in Washington, because when Republicans are saying, hey, we can win without Trump, Democrats hear that and they’re saying, wait a minute. Maybe we can win without Biden.
And so there are some Washington ramifications and so to see how that plays out because many Democrats may decide it’s time to go it alone as the president’s numbers fall.
What I’m going to be looking at at the RGA meetings today and tomorrow is how strong is that anti-Trump faction that wants to go it alone of all of the national committees that the Republicans have.
The Republican Governor’s Association is certainly the most anti-Trump and certainly touts as their heroes, the most anti-Trump guys like Larry Hogan in Maryland and Charlie Baker in Massachusetts.
These are guys that the RGA thinks are fantastic. But regular conservative Republicans forget Trump fans would see them as almost dangerous people on the landscape, Mike.
Carmichael: Neil, this is Crom.
McCabe: Hey Crom.
Carmichael: I’m very curious about what you just said about Democrats saying, maybe we can run without Biden. How does a Democrat run by ignoring, I’m not arguing with you. I can see how somebody could try to run without Trump.
Although in Virginia, the governor didn’t run against Trump. Trump endorsed him, but he didn’t ask Trump to come in and campaign for him. And so he accepted the endorsement and then ran his own campaign, which to me, is not the same thing as what Hogan is trying to claim.
Hogan is almost trying to say we should run against Trump. And so I see Hogan and that argument as an outlier. But I’m curious, how could a Democrat run against Biden and still win?
McCabe: Yes. The Democrats looked at Youngkin and how he handled Trump is that he was respectful, he didn’t denounce the guy. He just never brought him up. And he didn’t campaign with Trump. And the Democrats are in a full-on panic.
And this is something that we were talking about in the spring because as the calendar comes around, this happens every year. You don’t really need a crystal ball to predict that this was going to happen.
And you see that Jackie Spear, the House Democrat from California, she’s retiring. Pat Leahy, the senator from Vermont, who’s actually the President Pro tempore and the most senior Democrat in the Senate, he’s not running for reelection.
And so there’s a lot of problems on the Democratic side. And what I’m curious about is how that’s going to play out with the RGA and guys like Hogan. Hogan almost ran against Trump in the New Hampshire primary in 2020. Certainly, he gave an interview to that effect in The New York Times. Let’s see how that’s going to play out.
Leahy: Are you going to be able to talk with two Republican incumbent governors who are at odds with President Trump in many areas and who many would argue shirked their duties when they went ahead and joined the Secretary of State by certifying elections that were legal but not legitimate? And in particular, are you going to talk to Brian Kemp of Georgia about that and Doug Ducey of Arizona?
McCabe: Of course I’m in Ducey’s state. Ducey is the head of the Republican Governor’s Association. I’m pretty sure it ran today.
Leahy: It did.
McCabe: The National Republican Senatorial Committee denied a rumor that’s been floating around the state House here in Arizona that they want to recruit Ducey to run against Mark Kelly.
Not because the four guys running aren’t conservative enough, but because they’re too conservative and they don’t want a conservative Senator. They want a loyal Republican vote, and that’s what they think do see will do.
Ducey will do what he’s told. And we’ll see how that plays out. Brian Kemp is a guy who was down 45 points in the primary before Trump endorsed him. Trump endorsed him.
Leahy: That was four years ago. That was in 2018, right?
McCabe: Donald Trump made Brian Kemp governor of Georgia. And when this whole thing went down in 2020, Kemp was on the sideline. He was AWOL. And the same thing with Ducey. And it’s like, who knows what really happened at two in the morning?
That’s the point. The point is this thing was rigged. I don’t know how they rigged it. I wasn’t in the room. I just know something went down. And I’m not living in a country where Joe Biden got 15 million more votes than Obama did in 2012.
I’m sorry. And so guys like Ducey, guys like Kemp, they had an opportunity. They had a constitutional responsibility to look into what’s going on in their state in these elections.
And we’re going to see how that’s going to play out because there’s no such thing as a post-Trump GOP. And anyone who thinks that is delusional.
Carmichael: Do you think that the Republicans who are being recruited to run for the House and the Senate seats, I’m not going to say they’re necessarily pro-Trump because Trump won’t be on the ballot in 2022 for sure. So the question is, are they, Trumpy, in their view of government?
McCabe: The Republican Party apparatus leadership staffers consultants do not like Trump, and they are not recruiting Trump-like or even conservative candidates. They have never wanted Conservatives. They have always put their thumb on the scale in the primaries against Conservatives.
That doesn’t change. What changed is that Trump is around and Trump can weigh in on some of these primaries and maybe give a boost to these Conservatives. But you can’t expect Republican staffers, consultants or leaders to want to do anything that’s going to rock the boat.
They want a nice, happy Washington where everybody gets paid and everybody gets along and everybody goes to the right schools and every kid gets a bike for Christmas. And they don’t want to hear these angry people whining about their factories that went away. It just annoys them.
Carmichael: Okay, well, then let me change my question. If Trump weighs in in a primary, will his weighing in be dispositive in terms of a Trumpian candidate in the Republican primary versus a Larry Hogan type establishment Republican who would win that primary in a typical Republican congressional district?
McCabe: Trump is the 800-pound gorilla who can make things happen. He doesn’t always make wise endorsements because sometimes he picks a candidate who is not worthy of what he brings to the table. But a good candidate plus Trump wins every day.
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