Infighting between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, and Ohio governor and former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich is highlighting rifts in the GOP once again.
It’s safe to say this has not been a “Kumbaya” election cycle for those within the Republican Party. While Donald Trump has drawn record crowds at campaign rallies, he’s also repeatedly butted heads with party veterans and leadership. It’s caused a considerable level of tension within the GOP, from the top of the Republican National Committee down to rank-and-file voters.
The divisions became obvious during the primary as the rivalries between Republican candidates Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Kasich, and Trump devolved into name calling and personal attacks. This infighting culminated in Rubio’s peculiar statements about Trump having “small hands.”
“He is taller than me. He’s like 6′ 2″, which is why I don’t understand why his hands are the size of someone who is 5′ 2″,” Rubio told a crowd of supporters at a campaign rally in late February, according to a transcript from ABC News. “Have you seen his hands? And you know what they say about men with small hands. You can’t trust them.”
Things didn’t improve much after Trump won the nomination. Republicans had hoped that the Republican National Convention would unify the party, but the months of bickering between the primary candidates left simmering animosities between them and their supporters. Trump’s anti-establishment populism and unpolished comments on foreign and domestic policy also made many party insiders bristle.
There were reports of a Republican exodus, of moderates abandoning ship and flocking to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
In August, The Hill released a list of hundreds of Republican senators, representatives, governors, mayors, national security officials, party officials, former elected officials, former administration officials, members of the “conservative media,” “GOP donors,” and other “prominent Republicans” who refused to endorse Trump or openly stated they support Clinton.
The billionaire industrialists Koch brothers, long-time and lavish donors to GOP candidates and causes, maintain their refusal to back Trump, according to an August report from Reuters. They’re opting to support candidates in congressional races instead.
Growing annoyed with the steadfast dissent within his party, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued a not-so-subtle threat to former GOP presidential candidates who refuse to endorse Trump this weekend.
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) September 19, 2016
“Those people need to get on board,” Priebus said on CBS News‘s Face the Nation Sunday morning. “And if they’re thinking they’re going to run again someday, I think that we’re going to evaluate the process – of the nomination process and I don’t think it’s going to be that easy for them.”
In other words, if former candidates don’t fall in line and support Trump, the Republican Party leadership might make it more difficult for them to run for office in the future.
There’s a laughable irony in a party’s establishment telling it’s members that if they don’t endorse the anti-establishment nominee then they’ll face the brunt of the establishment’s political revenge next time they seek office.
Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio and former presidential candidate, didn’t take kindly to what Priebus said.
Sunday night, Kasich’s top political advisor, John Weaver, issued a statement on official Kasich campaign letterhead responding directly to Priebus.
— POLITICO (@politico) September 20, 2016
“Thankfully, there are still leaders in this country who put principles before politics,” Weaver said in the statement, according to Politico. “The idea of a greater purpose beyond oneself may be alien to political party bosses like Reince Priebus, but it is at the center of everything Governor Kasich does.”
Weaver praised Kasich for his efforts to prevent a possible national Republican “wipeout” in the upcoming election.
“The Governor is traveling the nation supporting down ballot Republicans and preventing a potential national wipeout from occurring on Reince’s watch,” Weaver said, according to Politico.
The statement also suggested that Trump may not be able to win the presidential election, according to Politico‘s summary.
Elections are fickle beasts, so it’s hard to tell if the Republican Party will be able to iron out their internal differences before election day. One thing seems certain, the infighting going on between Priebus and Kasich doesn’t seem likely to abate any time soon.
[Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]