For some Republicans, the 11th-hour repositioning may not be enough to stave off defeat. But the criticism, however muted, illuminates the extent of the crisis inside a party that is growing alarmed about its political fate and confused by Trump’s tweets and decision-making.
“It’s a Republican Party unraveling,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “They’re seeking to rid themselves of Trump at this juncture but realize they can’t quite yet. But they know his name is no longer kinetic on the campaign trail.”
GOP strategists said on Wednesday that the angst in the party could exacerbate in the coming weeks if stock markets are throttled by Trump cutting off talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a broader stimulus bill and if the pandemic’s toll worsens as temperatures drop across the nation and people move indoors.
Underscoring Trump’s unpredictability was the White House’s overtures to Pelosi Wednesday for a deal to rescue the airline industry.
“There are cracks and fissures all over the ice,” said Republican consultant Rick Tyler, a Trump critic. “The president spent months ignoring the virus and talking about the economy coming back. But when the president catches the virus and the economy doesn’t come back, what do you do? You try to survive.”
One senior GOP official close to Trump, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly, compared this crossroads to when the “Access Hollywood” story broke in October 2016 and many Republicans distanced themselves from Trump, who on tape had bragged in vulgar terms about groping women.
“The situation is getting worse and worse,” the senior official said. “This is like ‘Access Hollywood’ because we’re all seeing terrible poll numbers. We didn’t think it’d be this bad at this point. Everyone is wondering where the bottom is, and they’re figuring out what