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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Clinging to the Biden-Trump divide can warp the GOP's future in Congress

President Joe Biden is reflected in a mirror

President Joe Biden is reflected in a mirror Thursday at his first news conference in office. Credit: Pool via EPA / Oliver Contreras

As the U.S. Senate goes, so will the Biden administration and its governing agenda. Right now Democrats hold the most minimal of possible grips on a majority. Next year, 14 of their seats come up for midterm elections along with 20 of the Republicans'. The nail-biting is well underway.

This week's faceoff between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and GOP leaders over voting rights highlights what’s at stake. So do the fight over changing gun laws to deter mass killings and the debate about immigration.

Based on his track record, former President Donald Trump's hold on the party he took over five years ago threatens to help — rather than harm — Schumer, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Consider the recent record.

The deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 turned attention away from Trump's poor performance in trying to help his party in the Senate runoffs in Georgia. Democrats captured both seats, giving them the upper hand in the chamber.

This happened after Trump lost the White House despite numerous electoral advantages, a failure obscured for weeks by his bizarre lie that he'd won.

Now several post-Trump, pro-Trump GOP Senate candidates are emerging, and some Republican handicappers see problems.

The prime example is Eric Greitens, who was forced out as Missouri governor in 2018 after a short tenure while facing likely impeachment by the GOP-led Missouri House. He's chasing the Senate seat for which fellow Republican Roy Blunt is forgoing reelection.

Just about anyone can run for anything. But significantly, Greitens might have encouragement from inside the remaining Trump camp, which is forever committed to collecting contributions. On Thursday, Jessie Jane Duff, Women for Trump advisory board member and Veterans for Trump co-chair, expressed her support.

Despite consternation over Greitens' candidacy from some Senate Republicans, it could become a messy scramble for the nomination. "Greitens is a clear and present danger to botching the race for the GOP," Scott Reed, the former senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Politico.

Then there's Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who's after the seat to be vacated by Sen. Richard Shelby. Brooks was a warm-up act for Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the Capitol riot.

In the House, Republican chances could suffer in swing districts if pro-Trump extremists such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are nominated next year.

Trump's success as an out-of-office party boss may not exceed his shaky record running casinos, an ersatz university or the White House.

And forget the prospect of nostalgic coattails. The ex-president’s government legacy isn’t about to look better with time. Not only does the "American carnage" Trump vowed to end endure, but his coronavirus inaction is coming into sharper focus.

New research presented by the centrist Brookings Institution on Thursday showed that many lives and billions of dollars could have been saved during the coronavirus pandemic if not for the Trump administration's failures. Between that and Trump's fake election-fraud campaign, you have to wonder where and for how long the MAGA movement can punch tickets to Republican success.