A group of former Republican officials considering a new center-right political party to counter former President Donald Trump’s influence would face steep challenges in shaking up a U.S. political system that has favored two-party rule throughout its history.
Reuters exclusively reported on Wednesday that more than 120 Republicans – including former elected officials, along with former administrators under Trump and former presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – met virtually on Feb. 5 to discuss forming a third party or a new center-right faction.
Two of the most prominent anti-Trump Republicans in Congress – Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois – rejected the idea of a breakaway party in statements to Reuters on Thursday. Other Republican critics of Trump expressed similar skepticism – arguing a third party would accomplish little beyond splitting the votes of conservatives and helping Democrats get elected.
The resistance to a third party among some of Trump’s toughest Republican critics underscores the extreme difficulty of such a political revolt. Such an effort would require walking away from the Republican Party’s massive political infrastructure – staff, money, connections and data on donors and voters – that would take years if not decades to build from scratch.
An upstart party would also have little chance of succeeding without a charismatic leader who could capture the loyalties of millions of disaffected voters, said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who was a senior advisor to the Republican primary campaign of Marco Rubio, a Senator from Florida, in 2016.
“If somebody was going to start a third party that was going to gain some traction, it would be Trump” and not his opponents, said Conant.
Kinzinger joined the Feb. 5 video conference of the anti-Trump group and spoke for about five minutes, a spokeswoman told Reuters. But the congressman wants to “reform the party from within,” she said. He has recently formed a new political action committee to support Republican primary challengers running against pro-Trump House Republicans such as Matt Gaetz, of Florida, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia.
A spokesman for Cheney told Reuters in a statement that she opposes “any effort to split the party,” saying it would only make it easier for Democrats to enact policies that conservatives oppose.
Both Cheney and Kinzinger were among just 10 House Republicans, a small minority, who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
A more likely outcome of an anti-Trump movement would be for centrist Republicans to try to purge Trumpism from within its own ranks, said David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida who recently quit the party in protest of Trump and declared himself an independent.
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