And, say that the planned congressional challenge to the Electoral College on January 6 would a) not succeed and b) put lots of Republicans in a terrible political position.
For stating these facts, Trump is actively encouraging Noem, the state’s governor and an ardent Trump-er, to take on Thune.
Trump’s push for a primary challenge to Thune then is solely about the President believing that the senator is not sufficiently loyal. And “loyalty” is defined as supporting his baseless conspiracy theories about the election and/or attempting to overturn the results by extra-legal means.
Thune is not the first Republican elected official who Trump has threatened over a lack of loyalty.
In the wake of his November defeat in Georgia, Trump has repeatedly pushed Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, a Trump loyalist through and through, to find a way to overturn the results.
When, after several recounts, Kemp said he had no way of changing the outcome, Trump began attacking him — and casting around for a primary challenge in 2022.
The standard being set here by Trump is clear: If you don’t support his fact-free attempts to overturn the election, he will cast you as not a “real” Republican — and work to find someone more loyal to him to take you on.
Which brings me up to the debate — and vote — coming this week in Congress over objections in regard to the Electoral College registered by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley as well as a handful of die-hard Trumpers in the House.
That vote will almost certainly be used by Trump as a loyalty litmus test going forward. Either you vote with him (and against, well, you know, a little thing called democracy) or he will find someone to run against you the next time you are up for reelection.
What Trump’s threats against Thune and Kemp suggest is that the outgoing President is entirely comfortable ripping the Republican Party in two: Those who back him until the bitter end (and beyond) and those who, well, don’t.
Which, if it comes to pass, is an utter disaster for the near-term (and maybe middle and long term ) future of the GOP. A fissure that creates a Trump party and a Republican Party would likely lead to losses up and down the ballot in swing seats and states — as there are simply not enough Republicans in the country to split themselves up and still win.
Smart conservative minds — like Thune and McConnell — understand this math. Trump either doesn’t or doesn’t care. Either way, what he is threatening to do to the Republican Party could leave it badly damaged for years to come.