Updated Feb 24, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump's GOP shows its extremism could be a problem in November

Photo illustration of a collage of Jack Posobiec, the CPAC logo, IVF assays and memorial signs of Alexei Navalny.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP, Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If former President Trump and his fellow Republicans lose in November, weeks like this might be to blame.

Why it matters: Trump is beloved by the Republican Party's MAGA base. But the far-right stamp he's put on the GOP is bursting into view in ways that are giving even some Republicans pause — and could complicate their push for the swing voters they'll need in November.

  • By week's end, Trump's GOP was tied to calling frozen embryos children, appeals to kill democracy, and giving Vladimir Putin a pass on targeting his enemies.
  • It's all giving Democrats another chance to cast MAGA Republicans as extremists bent on destroying rights and traditions that most Americans support.

Zoom in: A conservative Alabama court's ruling that frozen embryos are children has prompted fertility clinics in the Republican-led state to shut down out of fear of being prosecuted.

  • Now Trump and Republicans in Congress are scrambling to denounce the decision, which stemmed from a Trump-orchestrated ruling they loved — the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of abortion rights under Roe v. Wade.
  • Trump, who frequently brags about appointing three of the justices who helped overturn Roe, on Friday called on Alabama's legislature to protect in vitro fertilization (IVF), the procedure the clinics performed.

At CPAC, the annual conservative convention (now Trump-fest) just outside D.C., there were calls for a Trump-led end to America's democracy — and a move toward a Christian state.

  • "Welcome to the end of democracy!" online activist Jack Posobiec proclaimed in his speech. "We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn't get all the way there on January 6th, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it."
  • Trump speaks there at 1 p.m. ET today.

Earlier this week, the former president's reaction to the death of imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny — comparing Trump's own legal situation to Navalny's, and declining to call out Putin — drew heat from Democrats and Trump's GOP rival, Nikki Haley.

  • "Donald Trump is siding with a dictator who kills his political opponents," Haley said at a rally ahead of today's GOP primary in South Carolina.
  • Trump later called Nalvany's death "horrible." But Haley, and President Biden's campaign, called the episode a reminder of Trump's tendency to admire dictators.

Between the lines: The fallout from the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling was top of mind for many Republicans and Democrats on Friday, as the ruling's implications — preventing many Alabama couples from being able to have children through IVF — became apparent.

  • After several days in which many Republicans avoided the issue, they rushed to make clear they want to protect IVF.
  • Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) reflected some Republicans' confusion. He initially said he was "all for" the ruling, before his office said he was "in no way" in favor of clinics' decisions to halt IVF procedures.
  • "Alabama law needs to change," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told CNN. "The Republican Party cannot be the party against family formation."

The other side: Democrats are in "I told you so" mode, blaming Republicans for stripping away reproductive rights favored by most Americans.

  • House Democrats' main super PAC announced plans to pour money into ads attacking Republicans in swing districts over the IVF ruling.
  • Biden's campaign unloaded on Trump. "Make no mistake, this is a direct result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade," Biden said in a statement late Thursday.
  • "Trump is responsible for 20-plus [state] abortion bans, restrictions on women's ability to decide if and when to grow a family, and attacks on contraception," Biden's campaign manager, Julie Chávez Rodríguez, said in a statement Friday.
  • "He proudly overturned Roe, and brags about it on the campaign trail."

Hans Nichols contributed reporting.

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