Rising Republican star Elise Stefanik, who this week wrested a top leadership post from a fierce critic of Donald Trump, said Sunday that the former president remained the party’s leader and was “critical” to winning back voters.
Stefanik was elected by Republicans Friday to the third-ranking post in the House of Representatives in a major victory for Trump, who still holds sway over much of the party and could run again for president in 2024.
She replaced Liz Cheney, who was ousted for criticizing Trump and rejecting his false claim that Democrats stole the 2020 election.
Trump is “critical to the party,” Stefanik, 36, told Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News.
“He’s the leader of the Republican Party. Voters determine the leader of the Republican party, and they continue to look to President Trump for his vision. And he’s going to be an important part of us winning back the House in 2022,” she said.
Republicans have been keen to tamp down internal discord, but Cheney has fiercely defended her stance against Trump.
On Sunday she said that some Republicans in Congress were reluctant to support her or speak out against Trump and his false election claims due to threats of violence from some of his extremist supporters.
“There are many members who have expressed concern about their own security,” she told ABC’s “This Week” show.
“We now live in a country where members’ votes are affected because they’re worried about their security, they’re worried about threats on their lives.”
Cheney has vowed to continue fighting for conservative principles and against a defeated leader who spreads “the big lie” of voter fraud.
She said that she regretted voting for Trump in last year’s election, and would work to stop him running again.
“I will do everything that I can to make sure he’s not the nominee and everything necessary to make sure that he never gets anywhere close to the Oval Office again,” she said.
Conservatives hope to craft a coherent message heading into next year’s midterm elections, but some Republicans fear that failing to reject Trump’s rhetoric about voter fraud could hurt the party.
A new CBS News poll on Sunday said most Republicans want the party to show loyalty to Trump and 80 percent agreed with Cheney’s removal.
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