“You have 46% of the folks saying they will follow Trump,” Steele said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’m like, OK, there’s the door. Y’all go do your thing, and we’ll just pick up the pieces on this side and keep moving. And that’s the battle.”
He was discussing a Suffolk University/USA Today poll that found 46% of Republicans surveyed would abandon the GOP and join a Trump party if the former president decided to form one. Just 27% surveyed said they wouldn’t. The remaining number said they were undecided.
The results showed a plurality of Republicans favored Trump despite the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that was led by his supporters, who sought to overthrow the election and hurt lawmakers who stood in Trump’s way. Trump’s actions in inciting the attack on the Capitol led to his second impeachment by the U.S. House. He was acquitted in the Senate.
Steele headed the RNC from 2009 to 2011. He’s been a loud Trump critic for years and in 2020 joined the anti-Trump conservative group The Lincoln Project in its fight against the 45th president.
The results of the poll show just how deeply Trump’s rhetoric has embedded itself within the party, Steele said.
“You can’t turn the corner on that,” he said. “You’ve got the national leadership making their way down to Mar-a-Lago to confer with Trump,” he said, referring to meetings between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and the former president in Florida since he left office. “About what?”
He said the GOP’s focus now should be on what it does next.
“And that’s where the battle lines are drawn,” he said, referencing Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), both of whom have faced criticism from within the party for voting with Democrats to impeach Trump in January.
″[They’re] standing on one side saying, ‘Here’s the rational, conservative approach to small government, effective leadership, individual liberties, etc.,’” Steele said. “And then there’s this. The Trump party.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.