Richard N. Bond was the Republican National Committee Chairman from 1992-1993. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinion at CNN.
(CNN)House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is in the midst of a political high-wire act worthy of the legendary Flying Wallendas, famous for performing daring aerial feats without a safety net.
On the one hand, McCarthy has to retain the loyalty of millions of Republican voters still wedded to former President Donald Trump. On the other hand, McCarthy needs to avoid going down the surreal and dangerous rabbit hole created by Trump and his “Big Lie” of a stolen election.
McCarthy fully recognizes the challenge he faces — and he has attempted to navigate it with mixed results. Right after the insurrection, he blamed Trump for his role in instigating the rioters. Then, McCarthy backtracked on that claim and made peace with Trump at a meeting at Mar-a-Lago. He did not vote for Trump’s impeachment and was instrumental in removing one of Trump’s foremost GOP critics in the US House, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, from her leadership position.
At the same time, McCarthy recently stated to reporters, “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election” — a claim that is sadly not true. And, unlike Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who McCarthy endorsed to replace Cheney in GOP House leadership, he has stayed mum on the absurd audit of 2020 election votes in Maricopa County, Arizona. Most tellingly, to date — and with the exception of Cheney — McCarthy has not joined in Trump’s politics of revenge and has not opposed for reelection any of the 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump.
Most importantly, McCarthy recognizes the potency of the Trump policy record and the attraction it holds for voters, particularly Republicans. The vast majority of the GOP supported Trump’s tax cuts, his hard line on immigration, his judicial appointments, his “get tough” on Iran policies and his unflinching support for Israel.
However, the darker side of Trump’s record — his countless misleading statements and falsehoods, incompetent response to the pandemic and stirring of violence on January 6 — all contribute to his ranking as one of the worst presidents in US history. And they pose a threat to McCarthy in expanding the Republican electoral base.
But McCarthy may be able to overcome this hurdle if he can successfully use Democrats’ actions and words to balance himself on the political tightrope. The powerful combination of liberal overreaches and historical midterm election trends have proven disastrous for the last two Democratic presidents.
In 1994, former President Bill Clinton’s leftward drift and introduction of the Health Security Act, a health reform bill conservatives referred to as “Hillary Care,” contributed to Democrats’ loss of 54 seats and control in the US House of Representatives, which they had dominated for four decades. Similarly, after former President Oba
Opinion: Kevin McCarthy’s Trump problem
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