If President Donald Trump really wants to bring the House Freedom Caucus to heel, he will probably have to escalate his attacks on them. Tweets about the group of 30 or so of the most conservative Republicans in the House won’t do it. He will have to name individual members and recruit strong primary challengers against them — and not just threaten to do it.
And while we often hear that the Republican Party now belongs to Trump, primary challengers hoping to defeat conservative congressmen will have three problems he didn’t face during his run for president. They are unlikely to be as famous as Trump, they probably won’t command the media attention he did, and they will be running against established incumbents. Last year, candidates attempting to run as mini-Trumps took on two conservative incumbents — House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio — and lost badly.