Utah Senator attack on Trump amid fears of a Republican civil war

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Utah State Senator Mike Lee, fighting to hold on to his seat in one of the crucial battles in the US Midterm elections, has distanced himself from former President Donald Trump. The comments suggest that, while the Republicans are expected to win on November 8, they are facing a civil war between “the old establishment” and Trump’s Maga movement.

Trump is expected to launch a campaign to retake the White House in January – and polling for Express.co.uk by the Democracy Institute suggests he is a strong favourite to beat whoever the Democrats put against him.

According to the polling, Trump would defeat sitting President Joe Biden by 48 percent to 44 percent, while he would crush Vice President Kamala Harris by 10 points – with 49 percent to 39 percent.

A repeat of the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton would see Trump winning by 47 percent to 42 percent.

Meanwhile, 55 percent believe Trump was a better President than Biden in the poll of 1,500 “likely” voters. His issues are polling strongly, with 53 percent agreeing there needs to be a freeze on legal immigration and 62 percent angry about problems on the southern border with Mexico.

But despite a possible resurgence in popularity, some senior Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Trump.

Fending off attacks from his independent challenger, US Senator Mike Lee of Utah sought to distinguish himself from the former president in a contentious debate Monday evening.

The second-term Republican said: “I stood against my party time and time again to oppose reckless spending. I will do it again and again and again. We need people who say no.”

Lee repeatedly pointed to his voting record and twice told the audience at Utah Valley University that he voted less in line with Trump than all but two Republican senators — Rand Paul and Susan Collins.

“To suggest that I’m beholden to either party, that I’ve been a bootlicker for either party is folly. And it’s contradicted by the plain facts,” Lee said.

Lee faces a challenge from Evan McMullin, a former Republican known most for his long-shot bid for president six years ago, when as an independent he won 21.5 percent of voters in Utah, including Lee. McMullin has remained a pillar of the anti-Trump movement, attacking the former president as an authoritarian who poses a threat to democracy.

The split over Trump comes as rivals are looking at taking him on for the Republican nomination.

Former Secretary of State Dan Pompeo and Florida Governor Ron Desantis are both preparing runs for the White House.

And some senior Republicans claim that while the Republicans are expected to win in November, Trump’s influence has lessened the result.

One former member of the George W. Bush White House, who has now left the Republican Party, privately told Express.co.uk: “The problem is that the Maga movement is coming up with candidates who are turning off voters.

“They don’t want that kind of populist extremism and it means that the gains in the House will not be as big as the Republicans hoped and they will not be able to win the Senate.”

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The Senate was always going to be a challenge because there are only believed to be four Democrat seats which the Republicans could take.

One of those is Georgia where former American Football star Herschel Walker, a personal friend of Trump’s, got the nomination.

At an event in London earlier this month, Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that the selection of inexperienced candidates like Walker made the swing states harder to win because they had “not learnt campaignign the hard way”.

He suggested that they won their nominations because of Trump.

However, Nigel Farage, a friend of the former President, dismissed the criticism.

He said: “The reality is that Trump is the only politician who gets it and understands the cultural issues we are up against.

“A lot of people are are briefing that the Republicans will not win as big because of him but it really is nonsense.”

Former Trump White appointee Peggy Grande added: “Nobody can win without Trump whether it is him or his blessing. All the others are waiting to decide to see if he runs.”

And GETTR chief executive Jason Miller, who is organising the pre-campaign, said: “It really is Trump’s to lose. His support for someone will make the diffference.”

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