Fighting for his political survival from the second floor of his campaign bus last week, Senator John Cornyn warned a small crowd of supporters that his party’s long-held dominance in this historically ruby-red state was at risk.
But while the three-term Texas Republican demonized Democrats at length, he didn’t spend much time talking up the obvious alternative: President Trump, the leader of his party, the man at the top of his ticket on Tuesday.
Asked whether Mr. Trump, the man who redefined Republicanism, was an asset to Mr. Cornyn’s re-election effort, the senator was suddenly short on words.
“Absolutely,” he said, stone-faced.
Mr. Cornyn’s gentle distancing from Mr. Trump foreshadows a far less genteel battle to come. This year’s election seems likely to plunge both Republicans and Democrats into a period of disarray no matter who wins the White House. With moderates and progressives poised to battle each other on the left, and an array of forces looking to chart a post-Trump future on the right (be it in 2021 or in four years), both parties appear destined for an ideological wilderness in the months ahead as each tries to sort out its identities and priorities.
The questions facing partisans on both sides are sweeping, and remain largely unresolved despite more than a year of a tumultuous presidential campaign. After Democrats cast their eyes backward several generations for a more moderate nominee, does a rising liberal wing represent their future? And what becomes of a Republican Party that has been redefined by the president’s populist approach, and politicians like Mr. Cornyn who have been in the long shadow of Mr. Trump for four years?
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