WASHINGTON — Northwest Republicans on Wednesday reacted cautiously to former President Donald Trump's announcement the night before that he would make a third run for the White House, reflecting their party's ambivalence toward the man who has for years dominated GOP politics.
Trump's announcement Tuesday night, from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, was dampened by a disappointing showing for Republicans in the midterm elections. The party won a narrow majority in the House but failed to retake the Senate, despite economic conditions that favored them, and candidates boosted by Trump despite concerns about their viability lost several key seats Republicans had hoped to capture.
When asked about Trump's announcement, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane declined to weigh in and said she is focused on working in Congress over the next two years, when she is expected to take the helm of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"We accomplished great things under the Trump administration, but it's too early for me to put my support behind any candidate," she said in a statement. "Our system is about We the People choosing the next president. What I do believe is that America is the greatest country in the world, and I know in my heart that the best is yet to come."
While the Republican primaries are more than a year away, voters likely will choose between Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was re-elected in a decisive victory that boosted his stock with political prognosticators and is widely expected to run for president. But it's unclear if GOP voters will coalesce behind DeSantis as an alternative to Trump or if more candidates will enter the fray, helping Trump prevail in a fragmented field just as he did in 2016.
Rep. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside — one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021 — mentioned DeSantis and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both former GOP congressmen, as candidates he could support.
"I think it's pretty clear, in my view, the policies we've seen put in place over the last couple of years by the Democrats are not working, and that America deserves better," he said at the Capitol. "We were on a much better track during the Trump administration, for sure. But my reaction is I think we have probably other people that can bring and deliver the message that we have as Republicans forward in a better way."
"There's a long list of people," Newhouse said. "I served with Mike Pompeo. I served with Ron DeSantis. I've gotten to know several of the other people, so I think there's a long list of people that would be good standard bearers. I think most people are wanting to look forward into the future."
Other possible GOP candidates for president include former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence, who said in a recent ABC News interview that Trump "decided to be part of the problem" on Jan. 6 and "endangered me and my family."
Rep. Russ Fulcher, who represents North Idaho, said Trump is "going to be a viable candidate" but voiced support for several potential candidates.
"I think everybody, at least on the Republican side, likes the policies," Fulcher said of Trump's time in office. "But at the same time, primaries are a good thing and there's some other people that could be worth considering as well. ... DeSantis, Haley, Pompeo, Pence. I like 'em all, and I like Trump."
Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho declined to comment on Trump's candidacy, but Crapo's office pointed to a statement he gave to The Idaho Statesman in October when asked if he would support another Trump campaign.
"Yes," Crapo told the paper. "During his administration, President Trump grew our stagnant economy, restored our military strength, dramatically reduced federal regulations and strengthened our borders. These policies helped to create one of the strongest economies we've seen in generations."
GOP primary voters will have to decide whether Trump remains the party's standard bearer in 2024, when President Joe Biden says he plans to run for a second term despite flagging approval ratings and calls from some fellow Democrats to step aside and make way for a younger successor. Biden turns 80 on Sunday, while Trump is 76.