Oct 24, 2021 - Axios on HBO

“You blew it”: GOP activist turns on corporations over vaccine mandates

The chairman of the American Conservative Union said on "Axios on HBO" he accepts "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," but predicted Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022 — with greater than 50% odds Donald Trump runs in 2024.

The big picture: In a joint interview with his wife, Mercedes, Matt Schlapp also refused to share their vaccination status. And he told corporate America "you blew it" by embracing vaccine mandates and liberal social stances that have alienated GOP voters and politicians.

  • "It's offensive to those who support the Republican Party and the conservative movement," he said. "They thought that they could appease the left and that the people, this broad midsection of this country would just go along with it, and they're not going to."

Why it matters: The Schlapps, who once served together in George W. Bush's White House and remain close with Trump, are influential figures in the Republican Party.

  • The ACU hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a mandatory stop for upwardly mobile Republican political figures.

What they're saying: "He won the election," Matt Schlapp said of President Biden.

  • "You also have to acknowledge that we had a presidential election, an election generally, unlike any we had ever had, because we suspended the rules because of the terrible pandemic. And that resulted in us not following the verification of voters in these states.
  • "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," Schlapp said. "And I want him to project strength overseas. ... We have never participated in any kind of rhetoric that would undermine that."
  • "I don't believe it would change the outcome of the election," Mercedes Schlapp said of calls for audits or investigations of alleged fraud. "But I will tell you a lot of people out there are very concerned ... about election integrity."

Matt Schlapp said he leaves each conversation with Trump asking himself, "Is he gonna run or is he not gonna run?" but after their most recent interaction a week earlier, "I think it's a greater than 50% chance that he runs.

  • "I think, for him, he wants to know that it's a doable thing, to win the presidency again," Schlapp said.
  • Mercedes Schlapp said Trump's thinking may be influenced by "how well the Republicans do" next year. If they win back control of both chambers, a Trump run is "more likely."
  • Asked whether any other Republican could beat Trump in a primary, Matt Schlapp said, "My belief if Donald Trump gets in the race, it's gonna be a lot like 2015-2016: It'll be controversial. There'll be some Republicans who hate the idea and will try to fight it. ... When it gets down to the debates and having the primaries and the caucuses, my guess is he'll clean up just like he did in 2016."

The intrigue: While revealing that their parents did get the COVID-19 vaccine, the Schlapps refused to say whether they have.

  • "It's none of your business," Matt Schlapp said.
  • If he shares his status, he said, "You know damn good and well what's gonna happen: It becomes a political question about what the head of the CPAC has done vis-à-vis COVID."
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