A Republican congressman said Thursday while President Donald Trump wasn’t the determining factor in his decision to retire at the end of his term, which expires in 2018, he was a part of it.
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, said Republican candidates facing re-election would have to surpass challenging hurdles, among them Trump’s divisive nature as the figurehead of the party.
“Well, at least in my case, I would say the President was a factor, but not the factor for me deciding to leave,” Dent told CNN’s Poppy Harlow, while a “a very challenging midterm environment” also contributed to his decision.
“The party of the President typically loses 32 seats in a situation like this,” Dent told CNN, but “of course then, Donald Trump, you know, complicates that because he’s a very polarizing figure, and so I suspect our challenges will be even greater just because of that.”
Dent also warned his party against alienating potential voters by clinging too closely to the traditional Republican base.
“One of the challenges our party has faced is it’s become, we have a much stronger base with older voters, and white voters, obviously,” he said.
The moderate Republican congressman also criticized the Trump campaign’s decision to solidify traditional GOP voters at the expense of newer voting blocs.
“You clearly alienate a lot of Hispanic voters with (Trump’s) comments on Mexicans and Latinos, and of course you have the Charlottesville situation,” Dent said, adding that “politics and getting elected is an exercise in inclusion and not exclusion.”
Dent also criticized Democrats, noting that increased polarization on both sides could open the door for a Republican challenger to Trump in 2020.
“I think both parties right now are in a bad place because it seems to me that the political parties are realigning right now,” Dent said, “and nobody is sure how it is going to sort itself out.”
Echoing Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, Dent said: “If the Democratic Party goes full Bernie, hard left, and the Republican Party stays where it is that opens up a lot the space in the center.”