Trump’s grip on the GOP remains firm, but is the former president stretching himself to thin?
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Former President Donald Trump returned to the crucial battleground state of Georgia this weekend to support the large slate of candidates he has endorsed in the Peach State.
At a large rally in Commerce, Ga. on Saturday evening, Trump said former Sen. David Perdue will “save Georgia,” praising the candidate he’s backing to try and oust Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
The former president was also joined by former pro football star running back Herschel Walker, the clear front-runner in this year’s GOP Senate primary in Georgia.
While Walker is leagues ahead of his Republican rivals in both the polls and fundraising in the race to face off in November’s midterm elections against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, Perdue is struggling in both key campaign metrics as he tries to knock off the conservative Kemp in the gubernatorial primary.
The former president lambasted the governor, arguing that “Trump voters will not go out and vote for Brian Kemp.”
Kemp, a one-time ally, earned Trump’s ire starting in late 2020, after Kemp certified now-President Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia in the presidential election following multiple recounts of the vote. Trump, who had unsuccessfully urged the governor and other top Republican officials in the state to overturn the results, has now returned to Georgia twice to campaign against Kemp. Trump for months urged Perdue to challenge the governor, and late last year he endorsed Perdue a day after the former senator launched his bid.
Perdue echoed Trump’s unfounded claims about the 2020 election, charging “our elections were absolutely stolen” and claiming that Kemp “sold us out.”
Trump remains the most popular and influential politician in the Republican Party, holding large rallies in states across the country. The former president is also a fundraising behemoth, hauling in massive amounts of money as he repeatedly flirts with making another White House run in 2024.
Trump continues to play a kingmaker’s role in the GOP primaries, and he has made scores of endorsements – unprecedented for a former president – that range from high-profile Senate and gubernatorial contests all the way down the ballot to state representative races.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a ‘Save America’ rally in Commerce, Georgia, U.S., on Saturday, March 26, 2022. Trump is focusing most of his ire over losing the 2020 election on Georgia, where he will put his status as a GOP kingmaker on the line on Saturday to turn voters against the states Republican governor and other party incumbents. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
“The democratic process has never before seen the kind of power that President Trump’s endorsement has heading into the primary season,” Trump communications director Taylor Budowich told Fox News.
But Perdue and some other candidates Trump is backing so far have failed to launch.
“I think Trump has overextended himself in Georgia,” Georgia-based conservative talk show host and nationally known political blogger Erick Erickson said.
Pointing to some down ballot candidates Trump has endorsed in Georgia, Erickson told Fox News that “we are two months from the primary, many of these candidates have no ground operation, and no get out the vote operation, and no money to build either or raise their name ID. They’re relying on Trump for all that … and Trump doesn’t seem to be throwing big money their way.”
Chip Lake, a veteran Georgia-based Republican consultant, emphasized that “anytime the former president — who’s still very popular in the state and very popular with Republicans everywhere — takes time out of his schedule and comes down and campaigns with you, it’s going to be helpful. It’s going to help energize the base.”
Perdue’s campaign emphasized that “as word gets out that Trump has endorsed Perdue, support for our campaign will only continue to grow.”
But Lake pointed that “with Trump endorsing so many candidates, it dilutes the other endorsements.” He added that the multiple endorsements can be confusing to “the average Republican voter, even the one who loves Donald Trump.”
And it’s not just Georgia.
Former President Donald Trump, right, announces his endorsement of N.C. Rep. Ted Budd, left, for the 2022 North Carolina U.S. Senate seat as he speaks at the North Carolina Republican Convention Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
Trump holds a rally in North Carolina on April 9 on behalf of Rep. Ted Budd, whom the former president endorsed last June. Trump’s hoping to bolster Budd, who is battling former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory for their party’s Senate nomination in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr in the key swing state.
McCrory holds the edge in the polls and in fundraising over Budd. Trump tried to convince another conservative candidate in the primary race – former Rep. Mark Walker – to drop out and run again for the House – but the former congressman and pastor turned Trump down.
The former president made headlines on Wednesday when he withdrew his endorsement of Trump loyalist Rep. Mo Brooks, whose poll numbers have nosedived since last summer in the GOP primary in Alabama’s open Senate seat race.
Former President Donald Trump (R) welcomes candidate for U.S. Senate and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) to the stage during a "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
And in Alaska, Trump is aiming to oust longtime Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only one of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his 2021 impeachment trial in the chamber who is running for reelection this year. But as of the beginning of the year, Murkowski held a formidable fundraising advantage over Kelly Tshibaka, the Trump-endorsed challenger.
“He’s endorsing these candidates but he’s not putting financial resources behind these candidates to help them win and I think there could be a steady stream this spring of his guys losing in the primaries,” predicted a veteran GOP consultant who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.
Texas is the only state so far this cycle to hold a primary, and hours after the polls closed on March 1, the former president boasted, “Big night in Texas! All 33 candidates that were Trump endorsed have either won their primary election or are substantially leading in the case of a runoff.”
While some Trump-backed contenders were in contested races, others were facing no real competition for the Republican nomination. That won’t be the case in some of these upcoming, high-profile, statewide primaries.
Another longtime Republican strategist – who also asked for anonymity – argued that Trump’s “whole brand is based on the premise of always winning.”
The strategist added that “if he’s a loser, it doesn’t work with his brand.”
Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally, Saturday, March 12, 2022, in Florence, S.C. Trump has endorsed two Republicans mounting primary challenges to sitting House members who have been critical of him. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
While Trump is currently the overwhelming front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in early polling, the consultant said if Trump-backed candidates start to falter, “it will empower some other folks to take a second look at it if he [Trump] decides to run in 2024.”
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