Republicans signal worries about Trump and the midterms

Senator Roy Blunt and other Senate Republican leadership speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 26, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Headed into 2022, Republicans were confident that a red wave would sweep them into control of Congress based on the conventional political wisdom that the midterm elections would produce a backlash against President Joe Biden, who has struggled with low approval ratings.

But now, some are signalling concern that the referendum they anticipated on Mr Biden - and the high inflation and gas prices that have bedevilled his administration - is being complicated by all-encompassing attention on the legal exposure of a different president: his predecessor, Mr Donald Trump.

Those worries were on display Sunday (Aug 28) morning, as few Republicans appeared on the major Washington-focused news shows to defend Mr Trump two days after a redacted version of the affidavit used to justify the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, revealed that he had retained highly classified material related to the use of "clandestine human sources" in intelligence gathering.

And those who did appear indicated that they would rather be talking about almost anything else.

Senator Roy Blunt acknowledged that Mr Trump "should have turned the documents over" but quickly pivoted to the timing of the search.

"What I wonder about is why this could go on for almost two years and, less than 100 days before the election, suddenly we're talking about this rather than the economy or inflation or even the student loan program," Mr Blunt lamented on ABC's This Week.

The Aug 8 search of Mar-a-Lago initially prompted most Republicans to rally around the former president, strengthening his grip on the party.

Some reacted with fury, attacking the nation's top law enforcement agencies as they called to "defund" or "destroy" the FBI.

Others invoked the Nazi secret police, using words like "Gestapo" and "tyrants".

Polls showed an increase in Republican support for Mr Trump, and strategists quickly began incorporating the search into the party's larger anti-big-government messaging.

But as more revelations emerge about Mr Trump's handling of some of the government's most sensitive documents, some of those voices have receded.

"Some of the president's biggest cheerleaders - Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan - have gone kind of silent," Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an anti-Trump Republican, said on NBC's Meet The Press. "That tells you all you need to know."

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