Trump has endorsed nearly 130 candidates for 2022, testing his influence within the Republican Party

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Challengers. Holders. Candidates for Senate, House, Governor, Secretaries of State, and even State Legislators. The nearly 130 candidates President Donald Trump has backed so far in 2022 are casting a wide net — and testing the former president’s influence as the leader of the Republican Party.

Trump’s 2022 year got off to a strong start in the Texas primaries, with his 33 endorsed candidates all winning or entering second-round races in strong positions. But a person familiar with Trump’s thinking said the poor performance and stumble of some of his chosen candidates, and some bad advice he received about them, made him more cautious about throwing his weight behind the contenders in some key upcoming primary races.

In some cases, the performances have raised questions about the power of Trump’s endorsements and his power over Republican primary voters now that he is no longer in office. In places like Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama, he was unable to clear the ground for his favorite competitor.

Former President Donald Trump rallies supporters in Georgia
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Banks County Dragway March 26, 2022 in Commerce, Georgia. This event is part of Trump’s Save America tour of the United States.

Megan Varner/Getty Images


But elsewhere, Trump’s selectivity has made his endorsement all the more coveted. In a crowded Ohio Republican primary for an open Senate seat, scheduled for May 3, several of the candidates are intensely vying for the former president’s blessing, positioning themselves as significantly more “pro-Trump” or “l ‘America First’ than their competitors and seek facetime with him.

A sign of Trump’s power comes from the visits candidates and political groups have made to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey since he left the White House. In 2021, FEC records indicate campaigns for federal office and political committees spent at least $750,000 at the two properties.

Former Ohio State GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken is scheduled to visit Mar-a-Lago next week, according to a source familiar. His rivals, Josh Mandel, JD Vance and Mike Gibbons, are also seeking endorsements. With early voting beginning next week, the candidates are eagerly waiting for Trump to make a decision.

The Ohio race marks the first of several this month that will present a significant test for the former president’s influence. In Georgia, he backed former Sen. David Perdue in his challenge to incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, who became Trump’s number one enemy for certifying the state’s election results. In North Carolina, Trump endorsed Representative Ted Budd, who is running for a vacant seat in the Senate. But Budd is in a tight primary race with former Gov. Pat McCrory.

The former president may still offer endorsements for the Senate and gubernatorial primaries in Pennsylvania and Alabama that month. In those states, he’s looking for new favorite Senate candidates after his initial picks didn’t pan out.

Last week, he withdrew his endorsement from Alabama Rep. Mo BrooksWHO trails two other Republicans for the open Senate race there. In Pennsylvania, Trump-backed candidate Sean Parnell abandoned the race after losing a custody battle with his ex-wife.

Former President Donald Trump rallies supporters in Georgia
Former U.S. Senator and Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia David Perdue greets supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump after speaking at a rally at Banks County Dragway on March 26, 2022 in Commerce, Georgia . This event is part of Trump’s Save America tour of the United States.

Megan Varner/Getty Images


As the primaries draw ever closer, Trump has hit the road to rally behind the candidates he has chosen. He traveled to Georgia last weekend to campaign for Perdue and a host of other candidates he supports. This week, he is expected to be in Michigan rallying for his chosen candidates for attorney general and secretary of state. The following week, he will leave for North Carolina to support Budd.

Campaign workers from various campaigns and super PACs say an endorsement from Trump gives candidates a significant boost in the polls.

“President Trump’s endorsement is the most powerful force in politics, and Save America is committed to ensuring that every voter is engaged and educated ahead of this important election,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said. in a press release. Save America is Trump’s PAC, which had $110 million at the end of February.

In choosing the endorsements, Trump considers the candidate’s polls and fundraising, and he closely monitors the debates and assesses how well the candidates could implement his vision for the GOP, according to people familiar with his process. of decision.

Former President Donald Trump rallies supporters in Georgia
Former Heisman Trophy winner and U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R-GA) speaks to supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally at Banks County Dragway on March 26, 2022 in Commerce, Georgia .

Megan Varner/Getty Images


But getting the former president’s endorsement can only go so far. “It will take you a long way, but you have to have fundraising, you have to have the ground game, and you have to fight for what it’s fighting for,” a former senior Trump campaign official said.

“It’s not a problem of the disempowerment of Trump’s endorsement; it’s the problem of campaigns not capitalizing on endorsement,” another Trumpworld operative said.

In the case of Georgia, strategists say Trump underestimated the power of Kemp’s tenure and how GOP primary voters might be more focused on the present than the past.

“What you’ve seen over the last year is Joe Biden reminding Republican voters why they don’t like him and his politics and punching them in their wallets,” a consultant from the Georgia GOP aligned with Kemp. “It benefits us. It’s no longer, ‘I’m pissed about the last election,’ it’s ‘I’m pissed about what’s going on right now.'”

Trump’s endorsement of Perdue has an effect on margins, the consultant said, but “but I don’t think they were able to release anything new to change the conversation.”

The fact that Trump’s endorsement hasn’t cleared the ground in the races is a sign to some GOP operatives that Trump, while still the most potent force in Republican politics, has lost some influence.

“Anyone who gets the endorsement should be happy,” said a GOP operative working on multiple campaigns, who asked to speak anonymously to speak candidly. “If you get the endorsement of a guy the base really likes, it’s definitely a good day for you, but that doesn’t mean you’re the next governor, senator, or congressman.”

If a candidate doesn’t get Trump’s endorsement, that agent told CBS News there’s still a path for candidates to continue their campaign rather than shut it down.

“You have to say ‘let’s move on’ because now there’s a plan,” the agent said, citing McCrory’s position as an example of how to stay competitive in a race where Trump has backed someone else. “It’s not over.”

In some cases, Trump is testing a candidate’s support without an outright endorsement. During the open Senate race in Missouri, the former president released a statement last week asking if voters had considered Rep. Billy Long. “Do they appreciate what they have in him, a warrior and the first great political leader to say, ‘You better get on the Trump train, he’s leaving the station. “” Trump said, “That’s not an endorsement, but I’m just asking.”

The candidates also lined up former Trump campaign and administration officials. In Ohio, Timken hired former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowksi, who was removed from office to a pro-Trump super PAC following allegations of unwanted sexual advances toward a donor and former senior Trump campaign aide David Bossie. Former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway is also helping Timken as well as Long in his Senate primary and Pennsylvania state senator Jake Corman in the gubernatorial race.

Billionaire Peter Thiel, who has donated large sums of money to support efforts for the Trump campaign in 2020, supports Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona. Super PACs backing Vance and Masters used Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio. In Arizona, a firm created by former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien and Trump campaign attorney Justin Clark is helping Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

In Pennsylvania, David McCormick, who is married to former Trump deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, is campaigning Wednesday with former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and former communications director for the Hope Hicks White House. Fox News host Sean Hannity, who advised Trump, supports Mehmet Oz.

In addition to Ohio and Pennsylvania, Trump has not weighed in on Arizona’s highly competitive Senate race. Missouri and Arizona don’t hold elections until August, giving the former president time to weigh his options. But the other races are only a few weeks away.

Trump likes to brag about his approval record and will eye candidates he thinks can win the primary and, ultimately, the general election. But he acknowledged in a Tuesday night interview with Real America’s Voice that he may end up supporting some contestants who lose their races.

“If I lose one along the way, what you have to do, right? They’re going to say it was a humbling experience,” Trump said. “I could have 100 wins and one loss and they could make it feel humiliating.”

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