To watch President Donald Trump’s victory lap Thursday at the White House, you would think that every Republican elected official in the country had fully surrendered to the cult of personality that is the modern-day version of the GOP.

The assembled members of Congress hung on Trump’s every word — loudly applauding when he attacked his political opponents as “evil” and staying silent when he questioned the religious commitment of Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

And yet, even as the elected party leadership in Washington was worshiping at the shrine of Trump, a Republican voice far removed from the nation’s capital was offering a very different take on the President.

“I believe that the President abused his powers,” Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott said of Trump. “It’s hard, in some respects, for me, because I’m not a supporter. I didn’t vote for the President, and I don’t believe that he should be in office.”

This isn’t out of nowhere from Scott. In September 2019, he became the first Republican governor in the country to back the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine. Scott has also spoken out when Trump called out members of the so-called “Squad” of freshman House Democrats to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” Scott also made clear that he did not vote for Trump in the 2016 election.

Scott’s willingness to speak out against the leader of his own party is not entirely altruistic. He is a Republican elected official in a state that Hillary Clinton won by 27 points over Trump in 2016 and that is represented by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and independent, self-professed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. And because of a quirk in Vermont’s election laws, the governor is up for reelection every two years — meaning that Scott, who was first elected in 2016, will actually be running for a third two-year term in November.

But even acknowledging the obvious political considerations for Scott, his willingness to speak out against Trump represents a stark contrast to the near-unanimity of support for the President among Republicans in Washington. (The lone dissenting voice was Romney, who voted to remove Trump on the first article of impeachment — abuse of power.)

And it speaks to the possibility that an alternate version of the Trump-centric Republican Party could form outside of Washington — with the likes of Romney, Scott and several other moderate GOP governors, like Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker and Maryland’s Larry Hogan leading the charge. (Hogan contemplated running against Trump in the 2020 primary before ruling it out last summer.)

Hogan is in the middle of his second term, after winning in 2014 and being re-elected four years later despite the fact that Clinton won the Old Line State by 26 points in 2016. Baker, like Hogan, was elected in 2014 and easily reelected — with 67% — in 2018 despite the fact that Massachusetts is one of the most Democratic states in the country. (Clinton won there by 27 points in 2016.)

How have they done it? A relentless focus on everyday issues, non-partisan problem-solving and common-sense solutions. One example: Baker signed a law in November 2017 that made Massachusetts the first state in the country to ban bump stocks, a gun accessory used to increase the rate of fire. That is, of course, easier to do as a chief executive in a state capitol far removed from the partisan blindness of Washington. (The ability of governors to avoid the pure polarization of DC also explains why Kansas, a very Republican state, has a Democratic governor, as does Louisiana.)

Regardless, for all the attention paid to the “Never Trump” voices on Twitter, that won’t be where the Republican Party builds a Trump alternative. It will be with people like Scott, Baker and Hogan, who have built blueprints on how to win in Democratic states as a Republican — even in the age of Trump.

Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott, speaking on Thursday Feb. 6, 2020 at the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt., said he thought President Donald Trump abused his power and he doesn't think the president should be in office. Scott also praised Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican to break ranks with his party and vote to convict Trump. Scott has been a frequent critic of the president. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

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