Days after leaving office, former President Donald Trump has reportedly floated the idea of forming his own political party. The new party, potentially called the Patriot Party, would severely divide the GOP and make it difficult for conservatives to win elective office in many parts of North Carolina. 

So far, N.C. Republicans are staying silent about the possibility of a new third-party challenge.

A cross-section of Republicans contacted by Carolina Journal, both Trump devotees and those who have kept their distance, declined to comment on the idea. 

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger declined to comment through a spokesman. U.S. Reps. Dan Bishop and Madison Cawthorn, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley, and consultants Jim Blaine, and Ray Martin didn’t respond to questions. 

Presumably, Trump’s most fervent base of support — perhaps as much as 30% to 40% of Republicans based on his performance in the 2016 primaries — would become members of the new party. 

In the early days, Trump’s Patriot Party would challenge Republicans who crossed him in his final days in office, people like Georgia Gov. Brain Kemp or Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney. The party would also become a new litmus test for politicians’ fealty to the former president. 

It’s unclear how serious Trump is about the third-party plans, or whether they’re merely a threat to hold Republican senators in line as a second impeachment trial looms. But a new political party seeking to bring in Trump votes would certainly divide the GOP and complicate the party’s goal to harness enthusiasm for the former president’s politics while also expanding the electorate.

Whatley has repeatedly spoken about the need to turn Trump voters, especially those who voted for the first time, into reliable Republican voters. Siphoning off these voters into a new political party would make this nearly impossible and complicate the calculus for 2022 candidates.

An additional third party on the ballot would also make it more difficult for conservatives to be elected to statewide or national office.

When President Theodore Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose Party in 1912 after losing the Republican nomination to President William Howard Taft, the ensuing fracture of the party delivered the White House to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.