Opinion: Trump muddles the GOP message

The Republican Party hasn’t been focused on inflation or the economy for much of the past six weeks — instead, it’s mainly been about Donald Trump again.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney lost her reelection bid in Wyoming this week not because of policy differences inside the GOP — she’s more conservative than Trump and most Republicans in Congress.

Cheney lost because of her criticism of Trump over Jan. 6 and his never-ending false charges of election fraud.

Her primary was about GOP fealty to one person, not about whether they agreed on tax cuts or health care.

Starting with Congressional hearings in July which delved into Trump’s role on Jan. 6, and stretching into an FBI raid on his Florida home, Trump is again the dominant GOP figure, crowding out policy talk in this midterm election year.

“I had almost forgotten how exhausting his term was,” said Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University.

While Democrats have been generating headlines about a series of legislative successes in Congress, Trump has been leading some Georgia Republicans into attacks on the FBI, instead of emphasizing pocketbook issues or other policies.

“Defund the FBI!” U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, said this week, cheering on the GOP’s standard bearer.

“The FBI is politically persecuting President Trump,” said U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, even dutifully repeated Trump’s evidence-free claim that the FBI had planted classified documents for the Mar-a-Lago raid.

“I mean, who is to say in this kind of case, that some of the documents supposedly seized were not planted there to begin with,” Hice said, echoing his own false claims of election fraud after the 2020 election.

While Republicans certainly are still the favorite to take the U.S. House in November, GOP poll numbers have suffered a bit in recent weeks.

Some see that as fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion, or attribute it to Democrats succeeding on the Biden Agenda in Congress. But others wonder whether it has to do with Trump returning to center stage.

Twenty-eight years ago, Republicans prepped for the 1994 midterm elections by presenting a detailed agenda, as Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich championed his “Contract With America.”

This time, Republicans have nothing like that to offer voters, even as Democrats talk endlessly about policy specifics they have approved in recent weeks.

Remember – in 2020 – the national Republican Party didn’t even have a platform when Trump ran for a second term.

Republicans find themselves in a familiar situation in 2022. Trump is on the rise, and policy is taking a back seat.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com