Some of them, anyway. Donald Trump has endorsed candidates in 15 Senate contests to date, according to Politico. Many of them are incumbent Senators. They are expected to cruise to renomination by the GOP. But, says Politico, some of the others are struggling.
Politico cites Mo Brooks in Alabama, Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska, Ted Budd in North Carolina, and Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania (Parnell recently withdrew from the race due to allegations of spousal abuse). Trump hasn’t endorsed Blake Masters, but did appear at a Mar-a-Logo fundraiser for the Arizona Republican. Masters is also struggling, according to Politico.
I don’t know enough about the races in question to say whether, or to what extent, these Trump-endorsed candidates actually are struggling. But to the extent Trump is basing his endorsement decisions on whether candidates back his unsubstantiated claim that he lost the election because of voter fraud, it stands to reason that some of these candidates are struggling. Subscribing to Trump’s excuse for losing is not a good indicator of a candidate’s fitness for the Senate.
Nor, I suspect, are most Republican voters interested in looking in the rear view mirror the way Trump obsessively does. Not with all the patches of bother that lie ahead.
Yet, Trump does appear to be basing his preferences in GOP primaries to a significant degree on loyalty to his claim that last year’s election was stolen from him. Politico points out that Trump appeared at Masters’ fundraiser one day after Masters released a video declaring that “Trump won in 2020.”
In Maryland, Trump has endorsed Dan Cox, a conservative state legislator, for governor. In announcing his endorsement, Trump described Cox as “a “tough lawyer and smart businessman” who “fought against the Rigged Presidential Election every step of the way.”
The “tough lawyer/smart businessman” part, though true for all I know, seems like boilerplate. The “rigged presidential election” part seems like the heart of the matter for Trump, which may explain why he capitalized the phrase.
I don’t mean to disparage Trump’s picks. I would probably vote for some of them if I could and might vote for Cox. (I wonder, though, whether Maryland would elect a candidate who insists that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged.” Glenn Youngkin felt the need to distance himself from that claim in Virginia, a less liberal state than Maryland.) But to the extent Trump is right to endorse the candidate he’s favoring, he’s right for the wrong reason, in my view.
In any case, what’s most interesting to me is that Trump’s endorsements don’t seem to be carrying as much weight as might have been expected. That, to some degree, is Politico’s take, anyway:
Trump may still have an iron grip on the Republican Party, but the limits of his powers are being exposed in 2022 Senate primaries. A number of his preferred Senate candidates are discovering that the former president’s endorsement is no guarantee of success in a crowded primary, leaving Trump to decide just how much political capital to further expend on their behalf.
“I think that Trump voters are ready, willing and able to take his word on a particular candidate they don’t know much about,” said Gregg Keller, a Republican political strategist who maintains that a Trump endorsement is “highly effective.” “But if and when he has made political mistakes along those lines, it’s been on behalf of the wrong candidate or not at the right time.”
In true Trumpian fashion, the former president is quite ready to disparage candidates who struggle after he endorses them. According to Politico, he’s expressed disillusionment with Mo Brooks as the former Alabama congressman lags in the polls.
My question in that case is the same as the one I asked when, with some regularity, Trump threw former top officials and advisers in his administration under the bus: What genius selected these people?