Former President Donald Trump pointing
Donald Trump speaks at his primary election night party in New Hampshire. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Republican Lawmakers Prepare for Trump’s Revenge

“I don’t get too angry, I get even,” the former president said on Tuesday.

After beating Nikki Haley in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Donald Trump told his adoring crowd, “I don’t get too angry, I get even.”

It was a familiar warning to the elected Republicans who have crossed Trump. And the vengeance cycle usually follows the same playbook: Trump and his allies go after them in vicious terms, and, eventually, they either side with Trump, lose reelection or quit politics entirely.

Take House Freedom Caucus chair Bob Good of Virginia, for example. Good defeated former GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman in 2020 after Riggleman angered voters in his district by officiating a same-sex wedding. Good is now facing his own conservative challenger. His sin: Backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump ally, recently accused Good of being a “disloyal MAGA traitor.” And Chris LaCivita, Trump’s campaign manager, swore “Bob Good won’t be electable when we get done with him.” A conservative group released a video recently of Good saying he couldn’t “sit by and watch and then regret that we nominated Trump.”

Still, after DeSantis dropped out of the race, Good offered his “complete and total endorsement for Donald J. Trump” and claimed during an uncomfortable CNN interview he wasn’t criticizing Trump and that the clip was deceptively edited.

As the former president draws closer to becoming the party’s presidential nominee, the few right-wing lawmakers who dared to endorse someone else are readying themselves for the inevitable.

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who weathered a bout of Trump’s rage and his own primary challenger in 2020, also endorsed DeSantis but doesn’t seem to be sweating things this time around.

Instead, he offered some advice for Good and other Republicans who may soon face Trump’s ire. “Bullies pick on the weak,” he told NOTUS. “Raise lots of money and crush your opponent. One humiliation goes a long way.”

Massie’s campaign outspent his 2020 Republican primary opponent, Todd McMurtry, and eventually beat him 81% to 19%. Massie may have been insulated by his existing peculiarities and a weak opponent. His constituents are used to him being the sole “no” vote on a given bill, and he’s clashed with party leaders for years.

Despite Trump once calling for Massie to be kicked out of the Republican Party and Massie later blaming Trump for the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Massie told NOTUS if Trump wins the GOP nomination, he’d vote for him over President Joe Biden, who he called a “catatonic dementia patient.”

Good hasn’t been in office as long as Massie, and his challenger, Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, is a former Navy SEAL. McGuire’s loyalty to Trump is obvious. He attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 when Trump attempted to reject lawful election results and stay in power.

Good, who also supported Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, could be the only Republican at serious risk for endorsing one of Trump’s opponents. Only a few GOP lawmakers backed a candidate other than Trump in the first place, and some of Trump’s attempts at revenge have been undermined by incompetence. In December, Trump called for a primary challenger to take on Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a conservative who also supported DeSantis — but it came more than a week after the filing deadline for the election had passed. So Roy is running unopposed and is expected to win easily in the general election.

Roy doesn’t seem concerned about any lingering backlash. He told the New York Times this month he doesn’t fear political retribution. “Worst-case scenario, I end up back in Texas? My life is pretty good.”

More than half of the House Republican Conference and over two dozen Republican senators are backing the former president. After Trump won New Hampshire’s GOP primary on Tuesday, more of them sprung to voice their support for him. To beat Biden, Texas Sen. John Cornyn said, “Republicans need to unite around a single candidate, and it’s clear that President Trump is Republican voters’ choice.” Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer made the same argument.

But some Republicans, particularly senators who criticized Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, have refused to endorse him. “Are you trying to get a gut check — ‘Am I joining everyone else in joining the Trump establishment?’ Hell no,” Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young told reporters on Tuesday. Young has a lot more room to defy Trump than his House colleagues, though: He easily won reelection in 2022 and his Senate term doesn’t end until 2029. House members, meanwhile, have to fight for their seats every two years.

By now though, it’s clear what happens to most dissenters from red states who can’t keep their criticism private. Only two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after Jan. 6 are still in Congress. The others were ousted by Trump-backed challengers or chose not to attempt reelection. Before that, Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who often sparred with Trump, retired. Former Rep. Justin Amash, who was the only House Republican to support an impeachment inquiry into Trump in 2019, first left the Freedom Caucus and then dropped the “R” next to his name entirely, serving out the rest of his term as an independent.

Still, Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, a Freedom Caucus member who has endorsed his former governor, Haley, for president, is feeling serene. That’s partly because Norman has kept close ties with Trump. He told NOTUS he called him before endorsing Haley, and Trump was “very benevolent” on the phone.

Asked about Trump’s campaign of retribution against Good, and whether he’s worried anything similar could happen to him, Norman shrugged it off. “This is a free world, and anybody can say anything. I hate he’s going after Bob, because Bob is a good member, and he will be the biggest supporter.”

“All of us will support the candidate that wins the nomination,” Norman added.

Haley Byrd Wilt is a reporter at NOTUS.