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There’s no debating that former President Donald Trump remains the most popular, influential, and powerful politician in the Republican Party.
Nearly two years after his 2020 election defeat, the former president continues to play a kingmaker’s role in GOP primaries as he moves towards launching another White House bid in 2024. And while a handful of his endorsed candidates suffered high profile defeats early this election cycle, the vast majority of candidates he’s backed in competitive Republican primaries won their nomination races.
But with less than two months to go until November’s midterms, Trump-endorsed GOP nominees running in much watched races are trailing their Democratic rivals in the polls or fundraising, or in both crucial campaign metrics. Among them are Blake Masters in Arizona, J.D. Vance in Ohio, and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania in key Senate races, and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Tudor Dixon in Michigan, in high-profile gubernatorial showdowns.
With the final stretch of campaigning leading up to November’s elections underway, Trump is back on the campaign trail, holding large rallies on behalf of the candidates he’s endorsed. Next up for the former president is a stop in Ohio next weekend to boost Vance, as he battles longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.
Senate candidate JD Vance, left, greets former President Donald Trump at a rally at the Delaware County Fairground, April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio. (AP Photo/Joe Maiorana, File)
But Fox News reported late last month and Politico noted last week, Republicans are increasingly concerned that Trump will continue to hoard his massive campaign war chest — his Save America political committee is sitting on nearly $100 million in its coffers — rather than share the wealth with GOP candidates in need of a financial boost.
If some of these candidates go down to defeat in November, potentially costing the GOP the chance to win back the Senate majority, some veterans of statewide and presidential campaigns say Trump will get the blame, which could impact his likely push to win back the White House
“If Trump-endorsed candidates that won their primaries lose the general election and cost Republicans control of the Senate or the House, it will hurt the former president tremendously because he’ll have to explain why he should run for president given that some of the candidates he supported lost,” a longtime GOP strategist argued. “How could he make a case that he could win.”
A veteran Republican consultant concurred, charging that “there will be many in the Republican Party concerned that if Trump can’t help other candidates, he would have trouble electing himself a second time.”
Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally on Sept. 3, 2022 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Both Republicans and a handful of other GOP strategists Fox News interviewed, asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.
But Trump world doesn’t see it that way.
“He knows that his influence is much more important in the primary,” a source in the former president’s political orbit told Fox News.
“He only cares about his win percentage in the primaries. He doesn’t feel that if a candidate he’s backed fails in the general election, that’s on him. He doesn’t feel that at all,” the source said.
Ted Cruz’s stop in New Hampshire sparks more speculation
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas parachuted into the New Hampshire primaries on Thursday, headlining a rally to support a Republican congressional candidate he’s backing in the key battleground state.
“The reason I’m supporting Karoline Leavitt for Congress is she is the strongest conservative in this race who will stand and fight,” Cruz told a healthy crowd of supporters of the 25-year-old Leavitt, who served in Trump’s White House press shop.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas headlines a rally for GOP congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt, on Sept. 8, 2022 in Londonderry, New Hampshire. (Fox News)
Leavitt is one of the co-front runners in Tuesday’s increasingly bitter GOP primary in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, which for a generation’s been a top House battleground.
“I think this is a great opportunity, number one, to flip the House. This seat is a winnable seat. I believe Caroline is going to win on Tuesday. And win in November,” Cruz emphasized.
The trip by the longtime conservative firebrand to New Hampshire — which for a century has held the first presidential primary in the race for the White House — will further fuel speculation that Cruz is moving towards launching a second national campaign. The senator was runner-up to Trump in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Last month, Cruz visited Iowa, the state that for a half century has kicked off the presidential nominating calendar through its caucuses. Cruz headlined a fundraiser for longtime GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is running for re-election this year. That trip followed an earlier August visit to Nevada, which votes fourth in the GOP primary and caucus schedule, where Cruz spoke in support of former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the 2022 Senate nominee in the key battleground state.
At Thursday’s event in Londonderry, Cruz told the crowd that “I love the fierce, freedom-loving independence, the flinty New England strength… New Hampshire, you are warriors. And you understand the value of standing and fighting.”
Cruz stuck around for roughly an hour after the event ended, shaking hands and posing for pictures with conservative activists and voters, and even joined some in the crowd for a beer at the bar at the American Legion post where the campaign event was held.
When asked about the next White House race, Cruz told Fox News that “there’ll be plenty of time for speculation about future elections. I understand how this process works.”
“My focus is on November of 2022,” the senator, who’s been crisscrossing the national campaign trail this year on behalf of fellow Republicans, reiterated. “2022 is a pivotal fork in the road.”
But he also once again acknowledged that what he decides to do – and likely what other potential presidential contenders decide — will be heavily influenced by Trump’s eventual 2024 decision.
“Everybody is waiting to see what Donald Trump decides to do. He gets to decide first. We will find out. Nobody knows what Trump will do. And everybody will act accordingly,” Cruz told Fox News in February, in an interview at CPAC in Orlando, Florida.
And on Thursday, he was even more blunt, telling the Washington Examiner during his New Hampshire stop that “there are a lot of candidates out there feeling their oats and boasting, ‘I’m running no matter what. I don’t care what Donald Trump says.’ Anyone who says that is lying. That’s an idiotic statement for someone to make who’s actually thinking about running,”
Youngkin on 2024: ‘We’ll have to see how things pan out’
Gov. Glenn Youngkin is a politician in demand out on the campaign trail.
Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia (right) and former Maine Gov. Paul LePage (left), the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee in Maine, speak with reporters, on Sept. 7, 2022 in Lewiston, Maine. (Fox News )
As the popular first-term GOP governor of Virginia crisscrosses the country, campaigning on behalf of fellow Republicans running in competitive gubernatorial elections in November, speculation rises regarding his potential national ambitions in 2024.
With political pundits viewing the rising GOP star as a potential White House contender in the next nomination race, Youngkin emphasized in an interview with Fox News interview that “we’ll have to see how things pan out” as he reiterated that he’s “incredibly flattered by this discussion” and “the fact that my name is in the national mix is pretty overwhelming.”
Youngkin spoke during a Wednesday evening trip to Lewiston, Maine, where he headlined a fundraiser for former two-term Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is this year’s GOP gubernatorial nominee as he runs to try and win back his old job from his successor, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.
Rick Scott in Iowa
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was in Iowa this weekend.
The former two-term Sunshine state governor turned senator campaigned with longtime Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks — both of who are running for re-election this year — at a Miller-Meeks tailgate gathering at the annual University of Iowa – Iowa State college football game
Political pundits view as a potential 2024 White House hopeful, but the senator has repeatedly downplayed such talk. In an interview with Fox News this spring, ahead of a trip to New Hampshire, Scott reiterated that “I’m planning on running for the Senate” in 2024, when he’s up for re-election.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.