‘Trump in heels’ leads new breed of acolytes into war with the Republican Party

Feb 20

‘Trump in heels’ leads new breed of acolytes into war with the Republican Party

Amanda Chase describes has garnered national attention

Amanda Chase describes has garnered national attention

She has praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol, been pictured with purported QAnon conspiracy theorists, and labelled rape victims “naive and unprepared”.

Amanda Chase, 51, a Virginia senator who likes to call herself ‘Trump in Heels’, was recently required to sit in a plexiglass box after refusing to wear a face mask during sessions in the state legislature.

But despite being censured, her controversies have helped make her a national star among Trump supporters, boosting her chances in the race to become Virginia governor.

She is one of a slew of Trump acolytes now launching early campaigns in state-wide races across the country, promising to continue Mr Trump’s legacy.

The new breed of Trumpists threaten to trigger a messy civil war ahead of the annual party conference this week.

Chase works from behind a plexiglass box after refusing to wear a mask - Ryan M. Kelly /AP

Chase works from behind a plexiglass box after refusing to wear a mask – Ryan M. Kelly /AP

Ms Chase most notably said of the Capitol insurrection: “These were not rioters and looters, these were patriots who love their country and do not want to see our great republic turned into a socialist country”.

Virginia’s Republican Party establishment has attempted to disown Ms Chase, but there is no doubt she enjoys widespread support among the party’s voters.

In a poll released on Friday, Ms Chase was the runaway favourite to clinch the Republican nomination ahead of her three rivals.

According to Ms Chase, it is the support she has gained from pro-Trump, grassroots voters in Virginia that has made her the front-runner.

“That is my base support,” the 51-year-old said recently. “I’m most in line with President Trump number one because I’m a businessperson, I’m not a politician.”

Ms Chase may well be right. Polls show the former president enjoying a resurgence in support among Republican voters in the aftermath of his impeachment trial acquittal.

Acutely aware of the power he wields among the the base, Mr Trump has threatened to work to oust elected Republicans who voted to impeach him by backing primary challengers when they face re-election.

As well as Ms Chase in Virginia, there is Josh Mandel, who is running in next year’s Ohio senate race and calls himself “Trump’s number one ally” in the state.

Mr Trump’s former press secretary, Sarah Sanders, is a candidate for Arkansas’ governor’s race. A number of Mr Trump’s most ardent backers are also planning to run in Pennsylvania’s senate race in 2022.

Ivanka Trump at a campaign event in Miami last year - Wilfredo Lee /AP

Ivanka Trump at a campaign event in Miami last year – Wilfredo Lee /AP

Members of Mr Trump’s own family are also considered likely contenders in state-wide races. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, has repeatedly been tapped as a political star in the making and his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is considered a likely contender to fill an open North Carolina senate seat.

Ms Trump, who has two children with the former president’s second son, Eric, is a former personal trainer and TV producer and became a regular surrogate for the Trump campaign during the presidential election.

The 38-year-old played a lead role in courting suburban women voters and has been willing to echo her father-in-law’s claims that the race was “ripe with fraud”.

Ms Trump’s senate bid may offer a crucial first test for the party’s direction.

Lara Trump was a high-profile campaign surrogate for the Republican president - Steve Marcus /Las Vegas Sun 

Lara Trump was a high-profile campaign surrogate for the Republican president – Steve Marcus /Las Vegas Sun

Some prominent Republicans, like senator Lindsey Graham, have offered a full-throttled endorsement of Ms Trump, calling her “the future of the Republican Party”.

Mr Graham has argued that the party cannot win without the former president’s brand of populist politics.

“I know Trump can be a handful, but he is the most dominant figure in the Republican Party,” he said this week, adding: “We don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking back the majority without Donald Trump. If you don’t get that, you’re just not looking.”

But Mr Graham’s view is not shared by all of the party establishment. Some senior figures feel that in the wake of losing the White House and both parts of Congress to Democratic control, it is time for the Republican Party to divest from Mr Trump.

The party is now split between those who believe they should capitalise on the “MAGA” movement by fielding populist, Trump-supporting candidates in the 2022 midterm elections and those who endorse traditional conservative contenders who may help win back the moderate voters who abandoned the party in 2020.

The topic of Mr Trump’s future role in the party will take centre stage this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual jamboree for grassroots Republicanism.

The event has been relocated for the first time in almost 50 years to Florida, Mr Trump’s new home state.

The conference’s speaker list is littered with former Trump administration figures and Mr Trump himself is widely expected to attend.

Those who have broken with Mr Trump appear to be persona non grata. Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador and likely 2024 presidential candidate, is among the notable omissions from the speaker schedule.

“There’s no doubt that this is a very challenging time within the Republican Party,” Olivia Troye, a former adviser to former vice president Mike Pence, told The Telegraph.

“Realistically, the Republican Party right now still is the Trump Party. There’s no doubt that the acquittal has emboldened the more extreme movements of the GOP. Right now these extremes have become mainstream – that’s the pattern we’ve seen but that’s going to come at a cost.”

Ms Troye, now a director of an anti-Trump group, said that while she believes populist, Trump-supporting candidates may win local races, it would cost the party dearly when it came to national elections.

“I’ve seen a lot of registered Republicans leave the party, they don’t want to be associated with this type of movement, especially with what happened at the Capitol,” she added.

“I don’t think the majority of Americans are going to subscribe to a base which is full of conspiracy theorists and lies.”

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