Trump's plea to back McCarthy falls flat with hardline U.S. House Republicans

WASHINGTON, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Donald Trump failed on Wednesday to persuade 20 fellow Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to fall in line behind Kevin McCarthy's bid for speaker, underscoring the former president's declining power over the party he reshaped.

"It's now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN," Trump wrote on his Truth Social media service in an early morning appeal to his allies, who largely represent conservative voters at the core of his support.

They ignored him, voting three more times against McCarthy after three such votes on Tuesday, and instead backing second-term Representative Byron Donalds.

Lauren Boebert, one of the hardline holdouts, called on Trump to change his mind, imploring him from the House floor: "The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy, 'Sir, you do not have the votes and it's time to withdraw.'"

Representative Matt Gaetz, long a Trump supporter, called Trump's announcement "Sad!" in a brief statement.

Trump is the only Republican to have so far launched a campaign for the party's nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 2024 election.

But after a four-year White House term during which Trump regularly proved he could change Republican lawmakers' minds with popular social media posts, Wednesday showed his power had waned, several Republicans acknowledged.

"It does demonstrate that Trump can't just snap his fingers and get members to do what he wants," said Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist who opposes Trump. "That's because Trump's relationship with the party is increasingly becoming less about Trump the man, and more about the forces Trump has unleashed on the party."

Trump did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

His allies have privately contacted offices of several House Republicans who voted against McCarthy, including the office of Donalds himself, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Some in the party blame Trump for the weaker-than-expected performance in the November midterm elections that gave them a narrow 222-212 majority in the House, amplifying the power of hardliners representing less than 10% of House Republicans.

Opinion polls show Trump facing a growing challenge from Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Washington-based correspondent covering campaigns and Congress. Previously posted in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Santiago, Chile, and has reported extensively throughout Latin America. Co-winner of the 2021 Reuters Journalist of the Year Award in the business coverage category for a series on corruption and fraud in the oil industry. He was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard College.