U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he has disagreed with President Donald Trump on issues including the budget deficit and the border wall. But, Cornyn said, he has done so privately.
Mark P. Jones is fellow in political science at Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy. He said Cornyn’s claim of privately sharing his disagreement with the president is a signal to voters that, “President Trump’s not someone whose mind you can easily change, if change at all, and therefore, you have to work with him if you want to get something done.”
Jones said he thinks there are two things Cornyn and other Republicans including Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona are trying to accomplish. One is winning the short-term election fight.
“They’re trying to peel off maybe five or six percent of Republican voters who normally vote Republican… but are so anti-Trump that they feel, Sen. Cornyn, Sen. McSally feel, that if they don’t essentially distance themselves from the president, they could actually lose and those voters could, after they vote for Joe Biden, continue down to the Senate race and also vote Democratic,” Jones said.
The second goal, Jones said, is looking ahead towards the possibility of a Trump loss.
“They’re going to try to distance themselves from Donald Trump and his unpopular policies. And one way to do that is to get the ball rolling before he loses so that they can say, ‘no, I was saying that before Donald Trump lost,’ rather than afterwards,” Jones said.
But Jones said he does think there is a possibility Cornyn’s tactic could backfire.
“So that’s the one danger that Cornyn faces, is by distancing himself from Trump right now in a bid to appeal to moderate Republicans who are voting for Joe Biden but may vote Republican on the rest of the ticket, he runs the risk of alienating diehard Trump supporters who may pass him over,” Jones said.
Jones said it is also worth noting that Cornyn’s criticism of Trump has been more muted than some of his Republican colleagues – including Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.