It is inarguable that the rise of Kevin McCarthy can be directly tied to the rise of Donald Trump. The wave that swept Trump into office paved the way for multiple events that put McCarthy in the position he found himself in at the beginning of this year.
The Trump folks will tell you that McCarthy would not be Speaker if not for Trump. I’m not sure that Trump had a positive impact on the 2022 midterms, but it’s clear that Trump’s initial rise to power and the Democrats’ crazed reaction to Trump did make it possible.
But Trump was not a factor in the races that gave the House to Republicans – New York and California congressional seats among them. Still, Trump and his people believe that McCarthy owes Trump the maximum amount of loyalty, and the Speaker’s recent comments about 2024 have sent Trump’s team over the edge.
Trump world flipped out. Top aides to the former president and allies who know both men quickly traded messages asking, in short: What the fuck?
Some called McCarthy a “moron.” Others looked to Trump campaign hand Brian Jack, who also advises the speaker and has been a critical bridge between both men, to play mediator as Trump hit the trail in New Hampshire.
McCarthy immediately pivoted into clean-up mode. He called Trump to apologize, according to the New York Times. He offered Breitbart reporter Matt Boyle an exclusive interview, during which he walked the comments back and accused the media of taking them out of context.
McCarthy’s damage control after the comments actually made things worse, however, as his team then immediately tried to fundraise off Trump’s name – without the latter’s permission.
In fact, McCarthy’s damage control made things worse. The speaker’s campaign allies pushed out fundraising emails and texts claiming, “Trump is the STRONGEST opponent to Biden!” — then asking for money.
Fundraising off of Trump’s name without permission is a huge no-no for the former president. His team requires explicit approval for any campaign to use his name and likeness. Trump’s team asked McCarthy’s last night to take down the fundraising pitch.
It’s a matter of narrative at this point. Trump and his team feel entitled to the support of people he has supported, endorsed, or been friendly to. Even beyond that, he feels entitled to the support of the entire Republican Party because he was their president once upon a time.
McCarthy’s original comments – the ones he now claims were “out of context” – were not wrong. Trump is capable of beating Biden. I said as much on Monday. But there are serious questions, and the biggest issue Trump is facing is the deluge of negative news, the multiple investigations, the current and future indictments, and the general public’s growing distaste for the drama that follows him. 2016 and 2024 are extremely different election cycles, and both are extremely different from 2020.
The thing is… he isn’t entitled to anything, and the idea that he shouldn’t have to work to prove it and that Republicans and conservatives should automatically support him is offensive. We’ve seen the talking point floating around for a while now that Ron DeSantis should “Wait his turn” and that Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and Chris Christie are traitors for running against him. Trump isn’t the only solution to what the Democrats have done and are doing to the country. There are plenty of options, and the voters don’t owe anyone their loyalty.
McCarthy certainly doesn’t owe Trump anything. Trump’s support didn’t get him across the finish line for Speaker. That Trump feels he’s owed nothing but positive words and support from McCarthy is just ridiculous.