Donald Trump’s claim of election fraud is tightening his grip on the Republican party, but veteran pollster Frank Luntz says the “big lie” could cost both the 2020 midterms and 2024 presidential election.
In a new podcast released Thursday, Mr Luntz said the former president may “single-handedly” cost GOP control of the House and Senate, while also ensuring another term for Democrats in the White House.
“What Donald Trump is saying is actually telling people ‘it’s not worth it to vote’. Donald Trump single-handedly may cause people not to vote. And he may be the greatest tool in the Democrats’ arsenal to keep control of the House and Senate in 2022,” Mr Luntz said on The New York Times‘ podcast “Sway”.
“If the Republicans lose the majority in the House, they will lay the blame at the feet of Donald Trump for telling people it’s not worth it to vote.”
The pollster said the ex-president’s message of unfair elections already cost the GOP a seat in Georgia and control of the Senate at the last election in an outcome that would repeat itself in 2022.
“More than two-thirds of Republicans believe that the election was stolen,” he said. “It’s working.”
It’s working so successfully that if Mr Trump runs for president as a Republican, “he’s the odds-on favourite to win the nomination” in a field Mr Luntz said would include Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“[Trump] could never win a general election. But I can’t imagine losing a Republican primary. That’s how significant he is within the GOP. And yet, he’s lost all of those crossover voters that would deny him the chance to win in a general election,” Mr Luntz said.
While waiting until after the midterms to announce his if he’ll run again, the ex-president is using his influence in the party to push out “Never Trumpers” like Liz Cheney, who voted with Democrats to impeach Mr Trump after the US Capitol riot.
Mr Luntz said Mitt Romney may survive as a senator but likely wouldn’t run for re-election, while Ms Cheney’s future in party leadership remained unclear as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attempts to move on from the riot of 6 January.
"At first, he was quite a critic of President Trump’s behaviour right after the attack. And then – I hate the word flip-flop, but that’s what he seems to have done," Mr Luntz said.
The Washington DC insider has personal insight into Mr McCarthy’s flip-flops as he was revealed by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to be renting a room to the California congressman.
In the past week, Mr Carlson has questioned why Republican officials listen to Mr Luntz more than their own voters, saying the share house with party leadership gave the "Google lobbyist" outsized influence over their policy positions.’
Mr Luntz said Mr Carlson’s comments were an attempt at “demonisation and delegitimisation” because the pollster might stand up against the Fox News host’s plans to run for president.
“I think Tucker is running for president. And I think that’s what he’s going to do. And I think he’s going to try to demonise and destroy anyone who might stand up against him. And that’s all that this is,” he said.