Donald Trump’s allies are pushing a ‘stay away’ strategy in several 2022 races

The “stay away strategy,” as one aide described, would involve Trump directing away from states or counties where factors converge – such as his popularity and demographic structure. academics – could mean his presence could sabotage the Republican Party’s chances.

A person close to Trump said: “There are places he absolutely shouldn’t go. I wouldn’t take him to Maryland, New Hampshire or Arizona.” Despite the fact that the former President has previously campaigned in those states for his own campaigns or other candidates, this person suggests Trump will harm the GOP Senate or its hopefuls. about gubernatorial if he shows up next year.

The approach assumes an unusual degree of contempt from the proud ex-President, who has long asserted his support is the single most important factor in any Republican candidate’s quest to win. any draw. Trump has loved his position at the top of the GOP since leaving office and has spent much of the past week meeting with aides and outside advisers at Mar-a-Lago to discuss engagement. his home in 2022 and where he should be most active. Trump endorsed key Republican challengers and incumbents at the national and statewide levels in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Wyoming, Ohio, Alaska, Texas and several other states.

It also poses a challenge for candidates who determine it would be best for them if Trump focused his attention elsewhere, but didn’t want to offend the former President by asking.

“They’re going to have to make a strong and unlikely case like, ‘I just don’t want him around,’ because at the end of the day many of these people are running on his policy,” people close to Trump said, adding that it’s “a fragile balance that some candidates will have to jump on, but the whole point of an election is to be strategic and win, not to appease a former President.”

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich disagreed that some Republicans would want to keep their distance, arguing that those who distanced themselves from the former President did so to their own detriment.

“Every Republican in the country knows that President Trump’s endorsement is the key to victory,” Budowich told CNN, adding that the New Jersey gubernatorial candidate defeated Jack Ciattarelli. would benefit from Trump’s telephonic rally the night before Election Day – instead, he demonstrated Never Trump equal Never Elected.”

‘I may not want him around’

Several Republicans who spoke to CNN said the strategy is easier said than done. They note that there are a number of states where one or more GOP candidates could benefit from Trump’s high-profile visit, while other candidates in the state will want to maintain their distance from the former President to maintain good standing with certain constituencies. . That could leave some Republicans hopeful with the awkward decision of whether to show up or stay home after Trump’s rally in their backyard.

A former Trump official who released Arizona – a top target for Republicans this cycle as they seek to regain control of the US Senate – is one example. The official cited Arizona GOP Senate hopeful Blake Masters, a former aide to billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel who is currently running in the Republican primaries before the Senate. Democratic congressman Mark Kelly. Last November, Kelly beat incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally in a special election by more than 2 points while Trump lost to then-candidate Joe Biden by less than half a percentage point, according to the data. of CNN.

“If I were Blake Masters and I knew Trump absolutely rejected suburban women, that would be a decision I weigh the pros and cons. I might not want him around,” the former official said. .

Masters campaign manager Amalia Halikias dismissed that suggestion in a statement to CNN, saying he would be “honored” to receive any support from Trump. The former President has yet to confirm a candidate in the state GOP Senate primaries but was scheduled to attend the Masters fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday.

“From what we’ve seen at our events, knocks on doors, and on the campaign trail, support for President Trump is sky-high in Arizona,” Halikias said, noting that Masters had worked for Trump’s transition team in 2016, appeared at his July rally in Phoenix, and supported him in both 2016 and 2020.

But for every Republican candidate like Masters who prefers to hug Trump, veteran GOP strategist Rob Stutzman said there will be someone else who could suffer at the ballot box if they show up too warm. worship the former President. In the interest of the GOP’s efforts to retake both houses of Congress, Stutzman said the former President will have to keep his stance low in some races if he can stand it.

“It’s too early to say where those races will go, but there are a number of places where this strategy could work,” Stutzman said, suggesting that if Republican Governor Chris Sununu runs for the Senate, like many in the party’s electoral apparatus had hoped. he would say, “he could have said we don’t want Trump in New Hampshire.” (Sununu announced this week that he will instead run for a fourth term as governor.)

Some around Trump have suggested that the “stay away strategy” is a move to defend what the former President sees as his pound record of endorsement. According to a Ballotpedia tracker, the 134 House and Senate candidates of 172 Trump endorsed in 2020 won the general elections last November, even though many incumbents have very little chance of losing.

That doesn’t include Youngkin, a political newcomer who won the Virginia GOP’s director of jurisdiction nomination without an endorsement from Trump in the primaries. After Youngkin moved into the general election against former Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, there were moments when Trump considered canceling an unspoken agreement between Youngkin’s camp and his team that he will not campaign for the Republican candidate, according to the two people. familiar with the situation. One said that the 45th President finally realized as the race tightened that if he came and Youngkin lost, he was likely to be blamed.

“But if things go as they did, he could go to an NRCC fundraiser and claim the money a week later,” a Youngkin adviser said, referring to the appearance on Sunday. Trump’s Monday night at a fundraiser for the House Republican campaign branch, where he claimed the MAGA movement single-handedly won Youngkin’s victory.

Budowich, a Trump spokesman, said the former president ultimately decided not to protest in Virginia because he didn’t need to to find his core supporters.

“The rallies serve the important campaign purpose of educating voters about President Trump’s support of his endorsed candidates. In Virginia, however, Democrats are on the line. from Terry McAuliffe to every outside group that has spent over $30 million making sure each voter knows that President Donald Trump endorses Glenn Youngkin … and MAGA voters accordingly voted Youngkin,” Budowich told CNN.

A second Youngkin adviser said the governor-elect’s team had “worked hand-in-hand” with the former president’s political activism and blamed the media for “misinterpreting” the reason for Trump’s absence. face in the race, note that the governor-elect’s campaign passed a blanket no. -The policy of privilege early on made it impossible for other senior Republicans to join the state besides Trump. The day before the presidential election in Virginia, Trump also hit back at reports of a rift between him and Youngkin in a statement blaming the media and “misleading advertising” for efforts to secure grounds. His “make America great again” will not appear to vote.

“Glenn Youngkin is a former college basketball player, private equity executive, and worth half a billion dollars. He’s a boss. He’s not a congressman running for the Senate or being a congressman. a state senator running for Congress, so this is on our terms,” ​​Youngkin said.

Policy overwhelms physical presence

Several Trump allies claimed the outcome in Virginia would not change if Trump showed up in the final weeks of the race to rally for Youngkin, stressing that his support has always been positive for the candidates. Republicans and they will be foolish to deny it in any form next year.

“Rural and suburban Virginia voters did so because they supported Trump and MAGA,” said Boris Epshteyn, a former special assistant to Trump.

Still, Trump aides say their boss is willing to respect the candidates when it comes to his level of involvement in key races as long as he feels their campaigns are a good fit. his “America First” policy program. And because Trump cares deeply about some races — especially those involving Republicans who voted to impeach him in January like Representatives Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Liz Cheney of Wyoming. — an aide to the former president said he will likely also have to forgo showing up in states or counties where he is welcome, given schedule restrictions.

“He would always say to candidates, ‘Let me know if you want me to do something,'” the aide said. “That was the approach in Virginia and it worked and will be the way to go. approaching 2022, as there are some candidates for whom his appearance would be helpful and others not.”


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