Trump has his eye on the White House and wants a more compliant Senate when he gets there


Donald Trump

That determination has prompted Trump to be more nuanced with some confirmations, at least so far. While the 45th president has bestowed his seal of approval on candidates ranging from a local mayor to Hungary’s autocratic prime minister, he has withheld it in key Senate elections. That includes Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio and Pennsylvania – where his early choice, Sean Parnell, dropped out after messy details of his divorce were revealed.

This Saturday, Trump will hold a rally in Florence, Arizona. But he is not expected to support a Senate candidate in that state, according to aides. People close to the former president say Trump is less sensible than cautious, having been burned too many times to support candidates who weren’t fully screened or unsure about their primary.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College as President January 6, 2021 in Washington. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo, file

Approvals may not be imminent, but an aggressive campaign push by the ex-president to bolster the MAGA candidates and his own supremacy in the party will. Trump plans to hold up to two rallies a month through November, with likely visits to states like Wyoming and Nevada, where he canceled a rally late last year, according to an adviser. Several top Republicans say they anticipate Trump will attempt to do some sort of counter-program to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next March — although a Trump aide did not expect to provide the official Republican rebuttal , which would be at the invitation of the Congress Committee.

Advisers and advisers say Trump is closely analyzing and watching key Senate races, where candidates compete across the airwaves and vie for his attention. There’s no grand strategy dictating how or when he gets involved, they say. Instead, Trump’s decision to assist often hinges on personal chemistry during visits to Mar-a-Lago, gossip from informal cellphone advisers and friends, and what Trump has gleaned from information given to him by advisers. Fundraisers for Republican candidates, where Trump might stop by to say hello, are a key benefit for candidates and take place nearly every night at the ex-president’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla.

“Most things are on the table,” said another adviser, with the exception of fundraising emails or fundraising on behalf of a candidate. For Trump, the key element he seeks to glean from these gatherings is the candidate’s loyalty.

Loyalty has occasionally been an issue for Trump when it comes to Senate Republicans. Though he was able to confirm three Supreme Court justices and narrowly pass his signature on tax cuts, other initiatives Trump has spearheaded — like his attempt to overturn and replace Obamacare, end the legislative filibuster, or one Resolving emergency funding for his border wall has been stymied by senators from his own party.

His anger at this supposed betrayal continues to this day. Trump is out of office and has continued to intimidate Senate Republicans, whom he viewed as disobedient during his presidency. He has regularly criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for not following his lies about stealing the 2020 election. Last week he called Sen. Mike Rounds (RS.D.) an “idiot” for saying Biden’s win was legitimate.

Trump’s aides say he’s not acting as a blunt political object. They note he’s been following Rounds, who doesn’t stand for re-election until 2026, but not Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who is running in the Alabama Senate primary and has told a crowd of Trump supporters they are supposed to pass election 2020.

However, some Republicans worry that Trump’s outsize involvement in the upcoming midterms is already jeopardizing GOP wins.

“Trump’s actions could cost us our Arizona seat,” said longtime Republican strategist Scott Reed. “It doesn’t help matters if you take an A-player like that [Arizona Gov. Doug] Ducey from the field. Forget what he says about McConnell and these other people, I’m just doing basic calculations on how we’re ever going to win the majority, and that’s going through Arizona.”

In Arizona, Trump effectively barred Republican Gov. Ducey from running for the US Senate in 2022 after Ducey confirmed Arizona’s election results. Ducey, a two-year governor and chairman of the Republican Governors Association, supported Trump’s presidency but then found himself in the former president’s crosshairs when he distanced himself from the partisan election scrutiny in Maricopa County that Trump was obsessed with.

“He wanted a specific outcome, and instead of taking responsibility for that outcome, he pointed the finger at other people,” said Kirk Adams, former Ducey chief of staff. “Donald Trump should have won Arizona, he could have won Arizona, and maybe leaving Arizona’s favorite son, John McCain, even after he died, wasn’t such a good idea.”

With the election now just 10 months away, Republicans are confident they will retake both houses. Biden’s approval ratings have been hovering in the low 40s for months. Inflation and ongoing frustrations over the Covid-19 pandemic have stalled the Democratic Party’s messages. And over the weekend, two key Senate Republicans — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Thune of South Dakota — announced their plans for re-election.

Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the playbook for the midterms should be simple and not about Trump or his political whims.

“Try to focus on defeating the Democrats and don’t get involved in inter-partisan battles,” Gingrich said. “I think when we do these things, Trump has a great ability to raise money, a great ability to focus problems, and a great ability to strengthen his base.”

“I think he’s better off spending 10 percent on the past and 90 percent on the future,” Gingrich added of the former president.

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