Loyalty to President Trump the new 'litmus test' for Republican candidates: GOP congressman

Republican Rep. Charlie Dent discusses leaving the House and his views on the GOP with ABC News senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce.
8:35 | 12/24/17

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Transcript for Loyalty to President Trump the new 'litmus test' for Republican candidates: GOP congressman
On the other side of the capitol, mar are Bruce dropped in on another soon-to-be retiring Republican. Charlie dent, a Republican from pen. He kicked off with an area where he agrees with the president. The GOP victory on taxes. It's not a popular bill. Are you confident this will be a political win for Republicans? I never felt that legislative success translates into electoral success. Ask the Democrats. They passed Obamacare, Dodd frank. The stimulus. And then were wiped out in the election. While the bill is not polling well, there's confusion about what is? It. That's a lot of good policy in the tax bill. We'll see if that translates into any political support. This is going to be a tough year. 2018, for my party, based on history. On the the deficit. Conserve tiff estimates say this bill could add half a trillion dollars to the nation's debt. Can Republicans still run as the party of fiscal responsibility? I don't believe the legislation will pay for it. I think it will partially. Think it's important that we start to do more to generate growth in this country. We have had anemic growth for a long time. I think we can do better. You're retiring. You never endorsed president trump adds a dntd. You didn't vote for him. Was the president factor in your decision to leave? Yeah, a factor. Not the factor. How so? I have been if elected office now for nearly 28 years. I had 14 year miss the state. 6 years in the house. The senate. I've run for office 13 times. I don't want to poil a perfect record. I had no serious electoral threat there the left and no credible threat from the right. I felt it was the right time. I'm young enough and healthy to do -- something else. There are personal reasons involved. Other issues. The president has been factor. It's -- I have often said this administration, at times, is faking the fun out of dysfunction. I expect a certain amount of dysfunction. Sometimes you laugh at it. It's not so funny anymore. To be fair, some of my own frustrations predated president trump. Particularly the 2013 shutdown. I felt like folks forgot their responsibilities. That is an important thing we have to do. The simple, basic tasks of government have become herculean tasks. Too many people have taken saying no the an art form. A lot of people just can't get to yes. You're the co-chair of the Tuesday group. The group of moderate Republicans. You have mourned in the past how I Derks ol-- ideologues have the party. It was about ideological put. Now the issue is changed. The issue is loyalty to the man. To the president. For some, loyalty is not enough. You have to be angry and agrooefd. I have said to folks, if I set myself on fire for them, they would complain that the temperature of the flame is not hot enough. Gn that's what we're dealing with now. It's not about ideology. It's loyalty to the president. The president doesn't always Irr spire loyalty. The president has told advisers he wants to get out on the road. Be campaigning more spp that a good idea? Is that good for Republicans? Or likely to give Democrats more ammunition? Depends where he's going. Some areas of the country, he would not be hel helpful. And some, in ruby red Republican districts, it would be beneficial. Some marginal swing districts in the northeast, I suspect a lot of candidates rather he not visit. When you lk at stochl recent E lebs, perilously in Alabama and Virginia, are you worried the party may be ail yeb nating younger voters, women, African-Americans the immigrants? Yes. Yes. Without hesitation. We can't have candidates that appeal to a very narrow base. The Roy Moore candidacy, before the allegations, this man was unfit. I didn't support him either. I said I never would. The party shouldn't have gotten behind him. The candidacy was a disaster. Nominating people who have no appeal outside of a very narrow base, I believe it hurts very much. I think it's -- it absolutely does. Does damage to the party. A lot of these people, they're not about expanding the the base. This -- politics and getting elected is about -- about addition, not subtraction. Inclusion, not exclusion. You hear people like Roy Moore and Steve Bannon and others, they're talking about exclusion. And I think that is -- very unhealthy. So looking forward if we can. You have been in the office now for than a decade. What is the biggest difference between the congress you arrived to and the one you'll leave behind? I guess the biggest difference is that not only Washington and congress but the country, generally, is much more polarized than when I first arrived. You can make a case it was becoming more and more polarized over several decades. The polarization has reached the point O of paralysis. There doesn't seem to be the bipartisan collaboration up front that we need on a lot of big issues. A lot of people have thrown up their hands and said, the two sides are so different. Hay can't agree on any of them. So why try? Is Washington worse off or better off? Think it's worse off. I just don't see how this is sustainable for the long term. But, I believe things will right themselves sooner ore later. What is it going to take to bring back that bipartisanship? You sound optimistic but you're not seeing it. Our primary process leads to -- candidates who tack to the fri fringe. Tack to the base. There's too much political reward for attacking really hard to the base. And not enough reward for consensus and agreement or, hech forbid, compromise. I believe most of the the American people are not on the fringes. I have found that. You're not going to get your head shot off if you km out of your fox hole once in awhile. You can stand up and do what you think you have to do and the go sell it. Some of the fringe, yeah, they're going to carry on and hyper ventilate. But most everybody else will say thank you. Do you think that changes in the 2018 midterms? It may. It may change. The Republican party will experience losses. We have seep that. We're not going to lose the majority. You have to be concern FPD president's approval rating in Alabama at 48% over the weekend. In a state he won by large margins. What is next for your permly. There are rumors you may consider becoming a political analyst. Any chances you're leaving here early? Are you telling me you're going to quit your job? I have no definitive plans. I have talked to people in television? Yes. Do I have definitive plans, no. Plans can change. Thank you very much. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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