Former President Trump Donald Trump First GOP lawmaker calls on Gaetz to resign Katie Hill on Matt Gaetz: ‘I feel betrayed by him’ Anne Frank’s stepsister: Trump ‘obviously admired Hitler’ MORE 's endorsements pose a test for him ahead of 2022 as he looks to flex his political muscle after leaving office.
The former president has thrown support behind conservative figures who have been particularly loyal to him, including Rep. Mo Brooks Morris (Mo) Jackson Brooks Trump blasts Arkansas GOP governor over veto of transgender bill The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden: Let’s make a deal on infrastructure, taxes Alabama Secretary of State rules out 2022 Senate bid after admitting to extramarital relationship MORE (R), who is running for Senate in Alabama, and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sarah Sanders Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor Trump appears at Sarah Huckabee Sanders campaign event Trump likely to form new super PAC MORE Sanders, who is running for governor of Arkansas.
Trump made his latest endorsements on Thursday, formally throwing his support behind one of his staunchest defenders, Sen. Ron Johnson Ronald (Ron) Harold Johnson Trump endorses Rand Paul for reelection Trump blasts Arkansas GOP governor over veto of transgender bill Trump calls on Ron Johnson to run for reelection MORE (R-Wis.) — who has yet to formally announce whether he is running for reelection — as well as Sen. Rand Paul Randal (Rand) Howard Paul Trump endorses Rand Paul for reelection Gaetz to speak at Save America summit amid sex trafficking investigation Rand Paul calls for Republicans to boycott Coca-Cola MORE (R-Ky.).
But his endorsements could prove risky as he looks to cement his hold on a party that has splintered into competing factions ahead of the midterms.
"As they're looking at candidates, they're trying to reshape the Republican Party away from what a lot would call a corporatist approach and more towards this America First approach," said former Trump administration official Alexei Woltornist.
Despite losing his reelection battle in November, Trump continues to be seen as a leading figure within the party.
A Reuters-Ipsos survey conducted late last month showed 81 percent of Republicans expressing a favorable opinion of Trump, while 49 percent said they strongly disagreed with the view that the former president should not run for public office again.
Trump's Save America PAC is also gaining steam ahead of the midterms, collecting a whopping $85 million in cash on hand last quarter. Trump has been a constant presence in conservative media, making a number of appearances on outlets like Fox News and Newsmax.
Many Republican candidates have taken note of Trump's continued influence in the party as they launch their own bids.
The former president has already rolled out a number of endorsements in races across the country this year. In March, he formally endorsed South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo Michael (Mike) Dean Crapo The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden shifts on filibuster Senators urge Energy chief to prioritize cybersecurity amid growing threats Senate passes extension of popular small-business loan program MORE (R) and Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin John (Tim) Timothy Griffin Trump announces new tranche of endorsements The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by TikTok – Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin drops gubernatorial campaign, to run for attorney general MORE (R), who is running to be his state's attorney general. Trump has also endorsed in lower-level races, including backing South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick in his reelection bid.
"Every candidate that I've talked to, the first thing they say is, how do I get Trump to endorse me?" Woltornist said. "To them, a Trump endorsement is the golden ticket."
Not all Republicans put as much stock into the former president's influence. Trump notably endorsed then-Sen. Luther Strange Luther Johnson Strange Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby’s future Sessions hits back at Trump days ahead of Alabama Senate runoff The biggest political upsets of the decade MORE in the Alabama GOP Senate primary runoff in 2017, only to see Strange lose to the controversial former Judge Roy Moore Roy Stewart Moore CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Shelby won’t run for reelection The Seventeenth Amendment and the censure of Donald Trump MORE . Moore lost the general election, giving Democrats a Senate seat for two years in the deep-red state.
"Trump is the biggest endorsement any person can get, obviously, but it's still not a golden ticket," said GOP strategist Doug Heye. "I think folks are kind of mindful of that."
Some Trump critics within the Republican Party have sought to boost candidates who have run afoul of the former president, reflecting the growing schism within the GOP.
Former Speaker John Boehner John Andrew Boehner The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden: Let’s make a deal on infrastructure, taxes The Memo: Boehner’s blasts don’t move today’s GOP The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by ExxonMobil – Pence sets the stage for 2024 MORE (R-Ohio), who has been especially vocal with his criticism of the Trump wing of the party, threw his support behind incumbent Rep. Anthony Gonzalez Anthony Gonzalez Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment Meeting between Trump, Ohio Senate candidates turns tense: report Moderate Democrats warn leaders against meddling in Iowa race MORE (R-Ohio), who voted to impeach Trump, according to Politico. Gonzalez is facing a primary challenge from former White House aide Max Miller, whom Trump has endorsed.
Another former Speaker, Paul Ryan Paul Davis Ryan Lobbying world Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment Paul Ryan to host fundraiser for Cheney amid GOP tensions MORE (R-Wis.), reportedly held a virtual fundraiser for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney Elizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney Budowsky: Great for Dems: Trump dominates GOP The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden’s infrastructure plan triggers definition debate Republicans quietly say Gaetz’s days in Congress are numbered MORE (R-Wyo.) in March after she drew scorn from Trump supporters in Congress for also voting to impeach the former president. Cheney is facing a primary challenge from pro-Trump state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R), though the Trump has not officially endorsed anyone in the race yet.
Other races Trump has yet to endorse in include the Republican gubernatorial convention in Virginia, where most of the candidates in the field have tied themselves closely to the former president.
Some argue that Trump is unlikely to get heavily involved in that race because the state has been increasingly seen as a Democratic stronghold. Others say it's too early to tell who will come out on top in the race, which will be decided on May 8.
"It's not clear at this juncture who the best candidate is," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "It's going to be a race that is won and lost on issues that are particularly specific to the commonwealth of Virginia."
Trump's endorsements have reflected the candidate’s loyalty to him. While the president has rewarded his staunchest supporters, he has threatened to back primary challengers against sitting lawmakers and officials.
The former president notably endorsed Rep. Jody Hice Jody Brownlow Hice Exclusive: Biggs offers bill banning federal vaccine passports Georgia’s top election official looks to shake political drama Lawmakers, whistleblower advocates push Biden to fill federal employment board MORE (R-Ga.) in his primary challenge against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) following a months-long feud with Raffensperger and other senior Georgia Republicans over election fraud claims.
"He's making it known that it's time to make some changes in Georgia," O'Connell said of Trump. "I promise you, the [Republican] grassroots are going to agree with that."
In Ohio's 13th Congressional District, Trump's endorsement did not appear to help Republican Christina Hagan in her race against incumbent Rep. Tim Ryan Timothy (Tim) Ryan DC delegate pushes for removing Capitol fence despite car attack Former Ohio health director won’t run for Senate Cleveland businessman jumps into Ohio Senate race: Trump ‘victories’ need to be protected MORE (D) in 2020. Hagan lost by roughly 8 points.
But Trump's endorsement in other 2020 races helped boost Republican candidates in the House and the Senate who were considered highly vulnerable. Incumbent Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham Lindsey Olin Graham Biden to announce executive action on ghost guns, red flag laws DNC chair: We have to ‘battle the damage to the Democratic brand’ Lawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden’s job MORE (S.C.), Joni Ernst Joni Kay Ernst GOP looks to squeeze Biden, Democrats on border Blackburn introduces bill to require migrant DNA testing at border Johnson, Grassley indecision freezes key Senate races MORE (Iowa) and Steve Daines Steven (Steve) David Daines OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Senate GOP pushes back on list of participants in oil and gas leasing forum Democrats, Republicans recommend more input, detail on Biden conservation goals MORE (Mont.) were at one point thought to be prime targets for Democrats, but ultimately held on to their seats. Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans managed to pick up seats, thereby shrinking the Democratic majority.
"It's more likely that it's going to be a race-by-race situation," Heye said. "Different states and different campaigns react to things differently."
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