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Always Trumpers: The president’s unbreakable wall

Data: Axios research and FiveThirtyEight's Trump Score. See our methodology here. Note(*): Senator Mitt Romney did not join Congress until January 2019. However, statements he made as a prominent GOP figure prior to his time in office were taken into consideration. Chart: Naema Ahmed, Sara Wise, Juliet Bartz, Orion Rummler/Axios

More than 85% of elected Republicans who have been in Congress throughout President Trump’s term have largely stood by him through seven crises that would have crushed most politicians, according to a comprehensive new study by "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: The data shows how Trump’s grip on the Republican Party has tightened — especially in the last two years — as his dissenters have largely piped down, been tossed out, or currently face the threat of losing re-election.


How it works: The Trump Loyalty Index, built over the past year by Juliet Bartz of "Axios on HBO," shows in empirical terms the intense loyalty Trump commands.

By the numbers: In 2016, 42% of the 178 Republicans who have been in office since Trump's candidacy criticized him during the "Access Hollywood" fallout.

  • In 2017, 19% criticized him for Charlottesville.
  • In 2018, 18% criticized him for his “shithole countries” remark.
  • In 2019, 15% criticized him for the “go back” tweet.
  • In 2020, 12% criticized him for the Bible photo op/clearing of peaceful protesters.

In 2016, there were also 49 Republicans in Congress who didn’t support Trump or withdrew their support after "Access Hollywood." Now, 25 of them are no longer in Congress or, in Rep. Justin Amash’s case, became an Independent.

  • Of those left, only a handful have remained consistent critics.
  • Meanwhile, no GOP member who publicly supported Trump in 2016 ever evolved into a critic.
  • And no current Republican who has taken office since Trump’s inauguration criticizes him except for Sen. Mitt Romney and, at times, Rep. Liz Cheney.

Those who haven’t shown their loyalty to Trump over the past four years are more likely to be in competitive re-elections.

Overall, 24% of Republicans up for re-election are facing competitive races, based on The Cook Political Report’s most recent House and Senate election ratings.

  • That number jumps to 38% for the index’s 50 least loyal Republicans up for re-election.
  • And it drops down to 16% for the index’s 50 most loyal Republicans up for re-election.

The loyalists: The five most subservient Always Trumpers, among the 201 House and Senate Republicans who have been in office throughout Trump's term, are:

  • Rep. Glenn Grothman (Wis.)
  • Sen. David Perdue (Ga.)
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.)
  • Sen. Kevin Cramer (N.D.)
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (Texas)

The critics: Alone among the Republicans,Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — now endangered in her quest for a fifth term — has criticized Trump for all seven crises. Others who have most often been at odds with Trump are:

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah)
  • Rep. Will Hurd (Texas)

The silent approvers: Often, lawmakers show their loyalty with their silence:

  • Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.)
  • Rep. Frank Lucas (Okla.)
  • Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.)
  • Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.)
  • Rep. Kenny Marchant (Texas)

The bottom line: Critics and dissenters don’t fare well because that’s not what their Republican constituents want. They want Trump and what he represents — suggesting that his style of politics, and the generation of Republicans he tamed and trained, could outlast his presidency and further transform what once was the party of the sunny Ronald Reagan.

Rashaan Ayesh and Ursula Perano contributed to this story.

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