2020 elections

Trump Called Massie a ‘Disaster,’ but Will He Support His GOP Challenger?

U.S. Representative Thomas Massie, a bipartisan pariah. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

In a Republican Party where nearly everyone makes daily sacrifices on the altar of Donald Trump, it’s rare to see two candidates on the president’s enemies list facing off in a primary. But that could be the case in Kentucky, where a June GOP primary will pit Congressman Thomas Massie against challenger Todd McMurtry.

Massie, you will probably remember, was the wiggy dude who held up a quick vote on the coronavirus stimulus legislation, forcing many House members to return to Washington and risk exposure to COVID-19. John Kerry probably summed up the general bipartisan take on Massie by saying he had “tested positive for being an asshole.” But the more damaging set of insults to the four-term incumbent came from a POTUS tweetstorm in which Trump called the congressman a “third rate Grandstander” and “disaster for America and for the Great State of Kentucky” who should be thrown out of the GOP.

Naturally, this incident has led political observers to wonder if Republican voters in Massie’s district will heed their king’s advice. The Wall Street Journal reports that Massie’s intraparty opponent is feeling his oats:

The four-term congressman, once lauded as a hero by conservatives for his successful drive to oust former House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), faces a challenge from Todd McMurtry, a lawyer best known for representing a high-school student in a defamation case involving a confrontation with an American Indian activist in Washington.

Defending a religious-school student wearing a MAGA hat at an anti-abortion rally in a high-profile legal fight with CNN is about as good as it gets when it comes to conservative street cred. And McMurtry is doing everything he can to pose as the saintly president’s champion:

Mr. McMurtry, who joined the race in January, argues that Mr. Massie is out of step with Mr. Trump, and that his recent decision showed a lack of judgment and was a betrayal of the White House. In an interview, Mr. McMurtry said his phone keeps buzzing with texts and calls from Kentucky residents and Washington officials that say, “you’re going to win — that was a really dumb move on his part.”

But if McMurtry’s name is familiar to political junkies in any context other than his successful fight with CNN, it’s for supplying the raw material for a another Massie stunt earlier this year that was nearly as strange as holding up a unanimous vote in the House. Politico had the story at the time:

With Trump planning to go to his Mar-a-Lago club for Super Bowl weekend, Massie, a four-term Kentucky congressman, is purchasing TV advertising time in South Florida on the president’s favorite channel, Fox News. Massie’s goal: Communicate to the president that his Republican primary challenger, attorney Todd McMurtry, is a “Trump hater.”

The libertarian-minded Massie has broken with Trump on an array of key issues, which McMurtry has highlighted repeatedly since launching his campaign earlier this month. But Massie’s new commercial aims to turn the tables on McMurtry, who is branding himself as a staunch Trump ally in lockstep with the president ahead of the May 19 primary.

The ad in question — which probably puzzled Fox News viewers in the West Palm Beach viewing area — was a scorcher all right, highlighting how McMurtry had once called Trump “an idiot” and “the epitome of a weak male”:

We don’t know if the ad hit its intended one-person target. But as Massie’s challenger barnstorms around northern Kentucky claiming to love Trump more than life itself, the president is thus far reportedly not planning to campaign with McMurtry.

Will Trump Support ‘Disaster’ Massie’s Primary Challenger?