Politico reported yesterday afternoon on what Nick Ayers, chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, had to say to a group of Republican donors:
“Just imagine the possibilities of what can happen if our entire party unifies behind him? If — and this sounds crass — we can purge the handful of people who continue to work to defeat him,” Ayers said, according to an audio recording of the remarks obtained by POLITICO.
So who should Republicans purge, and what could this effort accomplish?
Trump has been handed one major legislative defeat, on health care. We know the handful of Republican senators who were responsible for that defeat. There’s John McCain, who is effectively beyond purging. There’s Lisa Murkowski, who is not up for re-election until 2022 and depends less on Republican primary voters than most Republican senators. There’s Rand Paul. He’s also not up until 2022, and President Trump calls him a “friend” even when he criticizes him. And there’s Susan Collins, who appears to want to run for governor of Maine. The Trump administration can put its muscle behind denying that position to her if it wants to.
So there appears to be one target for a purge that makes any sense; it’s somebody who is likely to be leaving Capitol Hill anyway; and trying to hurt her career is just going to put her vote further out of reach for the next year.
This does not seem like a strategy for racking up legislative wins for the administration. Talking big about it, though, might be a good strategy for deflecting blame for its legislative failures.