Republicans Seek Distance From Trump, and Other News From the Sunday Shows

“I’ve been saying since 2020 that we have to get back to a party that appeals to more people,” said Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland and a possible 2024 candidate.

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Republicans Seek Distance From Trump, and Other News From the Sunday Shows |

Former President Donald J. Trump at his election night party in Florida. Trump-endorsed candidates struggled in the midterms.

Is former President Donald J. Trump the leader of the Republican Party?

That the answer is yes might seem obvious: Though Republicans like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida are drawing increasing attention, no one in the past six years has come close to matching Mr. Trump’s prominence and influence within the party. But as Republicans sought to explain their unexpectedly weak election performance in interviews on Sunday, the morning after Democrats clinched control of the Senate, some of them denied it.

“We’re not a cult. We’re not like, OK, there’s one person who leads our party,” Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If we have a sitting president, she or he will be the leader of our party.”

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” made almost identical remarks. “When any party is out of power, as Republicans are now, we don’t have a single leader,” Mr. Cotton said, suggesting Mr. DeSantis, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and himself as other leaders.

The sentiment was not universal. On “Fox News Sunday,” Representative Jim Banks of Indiana argued that Mr. Trump should stay at the helm of the party, saying, “Remember, when he was on the ballot in 2016 and 2020, we won a lot more seats than when he wasn’t on the ballot in 2018 and 2022.” (That is not quite true — Republicans are on track to win more total House seats this year than in 2020 — but their 2020 candidates did flip more Democratic-held seats and did better in relation to pre-election expectations.)

But the shifting ground was clear.

Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, who has often distanced himself from Mr. Trump but also endorsed his state’s Trump-aligned House and Senate candidates, argued before the election that voters would prioritize the economy over threats to democracy. On Sunday, he acknowledged that they appeared not to have done so.

“I don’t think anyone likes the policies out of D.C.,” Mr. Sununu said on ABC’s “This Week.” “No one likes paying six bucks for a gallon of heating oil, especially with winter coming. But what I think people said was, look, we can work on these policies later, but as Americans, we’ve got to fix extremism right now.”

Larry Hogan, the departing governor of Maryland and an outspoken anti-Trump Republican, hinted on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he might run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, and suggested that he saw this as less quixotic than before the midterms.

Inflation F.A.Q.

Card 1 of 5

What is inflation? Inflation is a loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

What causes inflation? It can be the result of rising consumer demand. But inflation can also rise and fall based on developments that have little to do with economic conditions, such as limited oil production and supply chain problems.

Is inflation bad? It depends on the circumstances. Fast price increases spell trouble, but moderate price gains can lead to higher wages and job growth.

How does inflation affect the poor? Inflation can be especially hard to shoulder for poor households because they spend a bigger chunk of their budgets on necessities like food, housing and gas.

Can inflation affect the stock market? Rapid inflation typically spells trouble for stocks. Financial assets in general have historically fared badly during inflation booms, while tangible assets like houses have held their value better.

“I’ve been saying since 2020 that we have to get back to a party that appeals to more people, that can win in tough places like I’ve done in Maryland, and I think that lane is much wider now than it was a week ago,” he said.

Here’s what else happened on the Sunday shows.

Though control of the House remains up in the air, with Republicans favored to take a slim majority, Democrats expressed jubilance — at holding the Senate, at winning many state-level races and at still having a chance, if a small one, to hold the House.

Democratic candidates “rejected calls from Washington about, oh, your message should change,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on ABC. “No, our message was clear: people over politics, lower costs, bigger paychecks, safer communities, and they knew the value of a woman’s right to choose. They knew how important it was to protect our democracy.”

Several Democratic officials were asked about President Biden’s low approval ratings and about polls showing that voters trusted Republicans more on the economy, crime and immigration, even if they ultimately chose Democrats based on democracy, abortion and opposition to Trumpism.

“Do you have a concern that Democrats can’t win if they’re running against ‘normal’ Republicans?” Chuck Todd, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” asked Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“No, I do not have such a concern,” Ms. Warren said. “Donald Trump, with his preening and his selection of truly awful candidates, didn’t do his party any favors, but this victory belongs to Joe Biden. It belongs to Joe Biden and the Democrats who got out there and fought for working people.”

“The things we did were important and popular,” she added, pointing to components of the Inflation Reduction Act like a cap on insulin prices for some Americans and a minimum tax for large corporations.

Anita Dunn, an adviser to Mr. Biden, made a similar argument, saying on NBC, “As the president traveled the country and I had the opportunity to travel with him in that final week, you didn’t go to a congressional district or state where the Democrats weren’t running on some aspect of the president’s agenda.”

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And Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan — who won re-election by a double-digit margin and will have an allied legislature after Democrats flipped both chambers — said she did not believe abortion was separate from economic concerns.

“I know a lot of folks kind of wanted to say, ‘Should we talk about the economy or abortion?’” she said on CNN. “But the fact of the matter is, the ability to decide when and whether to have a child is the biggest economic decision a woman will make over the course of her lifetime, and that’s why we kept that front and center too.”

Beyond Mr. Trump and the 2024 presidential campaign, Republicans face the more immediate question of what to do with their narrow House majority if they secure one — or how to proceed if they fall short.

Mr. Cassidy, the Louisiana senator, said on NBC that he wanted the next Congress to focus on concrete policies, including bipartisan legislation; he praised the bipartisan infrastructure bill and an earlier measure against surprise medical bills.

“If we have results that show, these are our ideas — now, if the left frustrates our efforts, well, that will be part of what we will discuss, but we just have to make that case,” he said, pointing to Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who won re-election, as an example of someone who had enacted “policies that make people in Ohio’s lives better, and he had an incredible victory. We can go around the country and see that.”

Mr. Cotton said similarly on CBS, “We need to focus on serious, substantive accomplishments and issues like crime, like our wide-open border, like addressing runaway inflation.”

Mr. Banks, the Indiana congressman, went in a different direction.

At first, he emphasized passing legislation “that addresses the issues that the American people care about — bringing down inflation and gas prices, the border, the drug crisis in America and the national security issues that keep Americans safe.” But then his tone changed.

After saying that, even with a small majority, “we have an opportunity over the next two years to be the last line of defense to block the Biden agenda,” Mr. Banks said he wanted Republicans to conduct investigations of the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, its pandemic policies and the origins of Covid. He said he disagreed with Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, that voters would punish Republicans in 2024 if they focused on investigations rather than legislating.

“Oversight is a primary function of the Congress, and for the last two years there has been no oversight of the Biden agenda and the Biden administration,” he said. “That has to be a focal point of every single committee in the Congress.”


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