DeSantis Is the Leader of the Republican Party: Sen. Cynthia Lummis

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said on Nov. 14 that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, not former President Donald Trump, is the leader of the Republican Party.

Lummis weighed in on the burgeoning conflict between the two Republicans when she was asked about endorsing Trump, who is expected to announce his third presidential run on Nov. 15.

“I don’t think that’s the right question,” Lummis replied.

She continued: “I think the question is who is the current leader of the Republican Party. Oh, I know who it is: Ron DeSantis.”

The Wyoming Republican re-emphasized, “currently, Ron DeSantis is the leader of the Republican Party, whether he wants to be or not.”

Lummis comments came a day before Trump was expected to announce his third bid for the Oval Office and fit into a developing conflict between Trump and DeSantis.

The midterms disappointed GOP hopes, and many Republicans, particularly in the Senate, have been quick to place the blame on the former president.

Trump’s hand-picked candidates generally underperformed. By contrast, as the hoped-for “red wave” failed to materialize on a national level, it did materialize on a state level.

DeSantis’s home state of Florida, formerly a key battleground that, like Ohio, has veered increasingly rightward in recent years, overwhelmingly supported the incumbent governor by a 20-point margin. The landslide victory over Charlie Crist was a major development in a state that barely gave DeSantis its mandate in 2018.

During his first race against Democrat Andrew Gillum, DeSantis won less than 50 percent but edged out Gillum, taking 49.6 percent of Floridians’ votes to Gillum’s 49.2 percent.

DeSantis’s success was reflected down the ticket too, with Florida as a state veering more rightward than any other state compared to previous elections.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for instance, was favored to win but faced what observers thought would be a tight race; in actuality, Rubio clinched his victory by over 15 points.

Comparatively, Trump’s candidates did not perform as well.

In Pennsylvania, Trump’s most controversial endorsee, Dr. Mehmet Oz, was defeated by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. Oz’s defeat left Republicans speechless as Fetterman continues to struggle with basic auditory processing and communication due to a recent stroke.

Though he has not conceded, Trump’s pick for the contested Arizona U.S. Senate seat, Blake Masters, is also projected to have been defeated by incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).

One of the most painful defeats for Republicans came in Washington’s 3rd congressional district.

The district has been a red stronghold for over a decade, and has been represented since 2010 by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.). In 2021, however, Herrera Beutler won Trump’s ire when she entered the ranks of a handful of House Republicans who voted to impeach him.

Trump-endorsed Republican Joe Kent successfully edged Herrera Beutler out for the nomination, and was projected on Election Day to have a 98 percent chance of victory, according to polling firm FiveThirtyEight.

On the other hand, Trump and his allies saw a big victory in Ohio, where populist and Trump endorsee J.D. Vance easily cruised to victory in a race against Democrat Tim Ryan that observers expected to be closer.

Republicans Conflicted on Trump

Still, some Republicans say that the results are a sign that voters are sick of Trump.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), one of a handful of Republicans who voted to convict Trump in the Senate impeachment trial after the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol, said that Trump was “the past” and American voters “want a future.”

“Those that were most closely aligned with the past, those are the ones that under-performed,” he said, citing significant underperformance by several Trump-endorsed candidates in House and Senate races.

“We, as a party, need to have a debate about ideas,” Cassidy said. “In that debate, we need to explain to the American people exactly where we think our country should go. By the way, since I think using market forces to make the individuals’ lives more free, more prosperous, is the way to go, I think we win that debate.”

Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), who successfully defeated Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), echoed these sentiments.

“Moving in a different direction as we move forward is a good thing,” Lawler said.

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who didn’t pursue a second term under reelected Gov. Brian Kemp, also painted the results as a reflection on the former president.

“This is a time that Donald Trump is no doubt in the rearview mirror and it’s time to move on with the party,” said Duncan, who some have highlighted as potentially prepping for a presidential run in 2024.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was more ambiguous in his comments about Trump.

Asked by CBS’s Margaret Brennan if Trump should remain the leader of the GOP, Cotton was ambivalent.

“Well, Margaret, when the party—when any party is out of power, as Republicans are now, we don’t have a single leader,” Cotton said.

“The former president is obviously very popular with many of our voters.”

Vance, on the other hand, jumped to Trump’s aid in an op-ed for the American Conservative titled “Don’t Blame Trump.” 

In it, Vance warned his soon-to-be colleagues against jumping to conclusions, noting how much data is still being accumulated. In turn, Vance argued that the defeat should be attributed less to Trump and more to Democrats’ much more refined fundraising systems, which Vance says allowed Democrats to close the gap in tight races. Less advertising, Vance said, meant less turnout by Republicans.

In fact, Arizona candidate Blake Masters was set to receive millions in funding for ads from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) Senate Leadership Fund (SLF).

However, after Masters said that he would not support McConnell as Republican leader, McConnell pulled the SLF funds.

That said, Vance evaded the question of Arizona altogether in his opinion piece.

“Blaming Trump isn’t just wrong on the facts, it is counterproductive,” Vance ruled in closing. “Any autopsy of Republican underperformance ought to focus on how to close the national money gap, and how to turn out less engaged Republicans during midterm elections. These are the problems we have, and rather than blaming everyone else, it’s time for party leaders to admit we have these problems and work to solve them.”

Joseph Lord

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Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.

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