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Trump warnings grow from forgotten Republi-cans

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he ranks of forgotten Republicans are growing.
Some were forced out, such as Tim Pawlenty, a former two-term Minneso-ta governor who lost this week's bid for a political comeback. Some, such as the retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chose to leave on their own. Others still serve, but with a mut-ed voice.
Whether members of Con-gress, governors or state party leaders, they are struggling to fit into Presi-dent Donald Trump's Re-publican Party.
The expanding list of mar-ginalized GOP leaders underscores how thor-oughly Trump has domi-nated - and changed - the Republican Party in the nearly two years since he seized the presidency. The overwhelming majority of elected officials, candi-dates and rank-and-file voters now follow the president with extraordi-nary loyalty, even if he strays far from the values and traditions many know and love.
The Republicans left be-hind are warning their party with increasing ur-gency, though it's unclear whether anyone's listening.
"I hope this is a very tem-porary place for the Re-publican Party," said Corker. "I hope that very soon we will return to our roots as a party that's very different, especially in tone, from what we've seen coming out of the White House."
The forgotten Republicans - people like former Flori-da Gov. Jeb Bush, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, South Carolina Rep. Mark San-ford and Ohio Gov. John Kasich - have been unwill-ing to sit quietly as Trump steers the GOP away from free trade, fiscal responsi-bility, consistent foreign policy and civility.
Isolation and political ex-ile have been their re-wards.
Their diminished roles leave fewer Republican leaders willing to chal-lenge Trump under any circumstances, even in his darkest moments.
Fact checkers have record-ed an extraordinary level of false and misleading statements flowing out of the White House. And beyond dishonesty, some of the forgotten have de-cried a disturbing pattern of racially charged rhetoric on issues like immigration, NFL anthem protests and Confederate monuments.
"White nationalism isn't something I'm ever going to be comfortable with. But it is embraced by, or simply doesn't bother, a lot of Republicans," said for-mer Ohio Republican Par-ty chairman Matt Borges, once a Trump confidant who was forced from his leadership post after criti-cizing Trump in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.
After Trump's victory, Borges returned to practic-ing law, while he contin-ues to play a modest role in local politics.
"To me, it became a matter of how much of your soul are you willing to sell. I would be the wrong person to be leading this party right now," Borges said.
Trump remains popular among rank-and-file Re-publicans. And the vast majority of Republican candidates across the country this midterm sea-son are pledging uncondi-tional loyalty - and being rewarded with primary victories.
Gallup found that 82 per-cent of Republicans ap-proved of the president's job performance earlier this month. That's com-pared to just 34 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats.
Kasich, who has not ruled out a primary bid against Trump in 2020, said the president's approval is misleading because the universe of people identi-fying as Republican is shrinking.
"We're dealing with a remnant of the Republican Party. The party is not what it was," Kasich said in an interview.
The term-limited governor said he's content to focus quietly on addressing is-sues like the opioid epi-demic and urban violence on a bipartisan basis while the Trump-led GOP focus-es on partisan squabbling.
"Let those in the Republi-can Party who want to be ideological and partisan, let them wallow in their own failures," said Kasich.
Other GOP leaders aren't feeling quite so embold-ened.
Pawlenty's quest for a third term collapsed after Republican primary voters determined his experience - and his years-old description of Trump as "unfit and unhinged" - weren't welcome.
Pawlenty politely declined to be interviewed, but a former aide, Alex Conant, said this week's result, like those of other primary elections this year, sent a clear message about the modern GOP.
"There's not a lot of room for dissent in the Republi-can Party right now," Co-nant said. "Moderates don't feel welcome. And if you're not loyal to Trump, there's not necessarily room for you."
The details may be differ-ent, but Pawlenty's unex-pected exit is reminiscent of that of other public officials who have struggled to find their footing in the Trump era.
Bush, another Trump crit-ic, declined to comment for this story. He has been forced into silence, at least in part, for fear of hurting his son's political career. In June, Donald Trump Jr. withdrew from a fundrais-er for Texas land commis-sioner George P. Bush after Jeb Bush criticized the president's policy of separating immigrant chil-dren from their families at the border.
Another periodic Trump critic, former House Speaker John Boehner, is in the midst of a 20-stop bus tour to help raise mon-ey for vulnerable House Republicans.
Just don't ask whom he's raising money for.
Spokesman David Schnittger said it was up to each of the campaigns involved to disclose Boehner's help. "I'm not sure anyone has exercised that option to date," he said.
Boehner's successor, Paul Ryan, has seen his once sky-high career prospects flounder in the Trump era. The 2012 GOP vice presi-dential nominee has occa-sionally criticized Trump, but he is retiring at the end of the year.
In South Carolina, Repub-lican Rep. Mark Sanford narrowly lost his June primary hours after Trump tweeted he had been "very unhelpful" and highlighted the congressman's extra-marital affair.
Days later, Sanford de-scribed Trumpism as "a cancerous growth." As he prepares to leave Con-gress, he's warning the GOP the cancer is spread-ing.
"We have a president that will tell numerous dis-truths in the course of a day, yet that's not chal-lenged," Sanford said in an interview. "What's cancerous here is in an open political system, there has to be some measure of objective truth."
"I'm baffled by the way so many people have looked the other way," he said.
Asked whether he feels like he fits in today's GOP, Sanford said simply, "No."
Back in Ohio, Borges vowed that his departure from politics was only temporary.
"The Trump phenomenon is going to end at some point in time. That might be six years, that might be two years, that might be sooner. No one knows," the former Ohio GOP chairman said. "When it does end, it's the job of a lot of us ... to make sure that the party is still popu-lated by good, honest, de-cent candidates and of-ficeholders who we can continue to be proud of."--AP