Media focus on GOP support for candidates Trump does not back smacks of a wedge-driving ploy

In what smacks as an early attempt to drive a wedge between Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the media is focusing on party support for GOP candidates other than those backed by the former president.

“Republicans are growing increasingly bold in their support for a handful of candidates snubbed by former President Trump in hotly contested GOP primaries,” The Hill reported. “While Trump remains the most coveted endorser among Republicans, his picks in some races have stirred concern and frustration within some corners of the GOP, with some Republicans questioning whether the former president is picking the strongest candidates in potentially competitive races.”

Trump has a tendency to get behind candidates who are willing to take a stand against establishment politicians, and there’s no love lost with many Republicans, beginning with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who Trump has called an “old crow.”

“I think there’s a sense among a lot of folks that some of these people that the president has endorsed — he’s using his own, very specific criteria that’s not always in line with what a good candidate looks like,” an unnamed Republican strategist told The Hill. “You look at a lot of the candidates he’s endorsed, some of them are struggling now.”

The online political news outlet pointed to former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley headlining a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace. The South Carolina Republican — who was critical of Trump over the Jan. 6 protest, saying, “I don’t know how you go forward and defend the indefensible” — is facing a primary challenge from Trump-backed Katie Arrington.

Retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., was also named, as he is reportedly planning to pour as much as $6 million to a super PAC supporting one of his former aides, Katie Britt, to succeed him, while Trump is backing U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., to fill the seat — Brooks announced Monday his “pledge to America” to fire Mitch McConnell if he is elected, after Trump recently expressed disappointment with congressman’s comments about moving on from the 2020 election.

“I’m disappointed that he gave an inarticulate answer, and I’ll have to find out what he means,” Trump told The Washington Examiner last week. “If it meant what he sounded like, I would have no problem changing [my endorsement] because when you endorse somebody, you endorse somebody based on principle. If he changed that principle, I would have no problem doing that.”

Saul Anuzis, a longtime Republican strategist and former Michigan GOP chairman, told The Hill that “people are, rightfully so, paying attention” to who Trump is endorsing, adding, “But it’s important to note that, in general, endorsing a candidate doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to determine who the winner is.”

“They still have to be credible candidates, they still have to run good campaigns, they still have to raise the money and do what they need to do to win,” Anuzis added.

There’s also the issue of financial support, or the lack thereof — though it’s still early in the midterms.

Trump’s Save America leadership PAC ended February with more than $110 million in the bank, according to The Hill, yet the former president didn’t make any donations to the candidates he is supporting.

“He’s not spending it,” veteran GOP strategist Keith Naughton said. “That’s his money and he wants to reserve it for himself.”

Trump is holding rallies in support of candidates he backs. He recently held a rally in South Carolina and has a rally coming up in Georgia on Saturday.

With Republicans poised to take control of both chambers of Congress in November — the GOP needs to flip just five seats in the House and only one in the Senate — Trump’s endorsements are likely to impact the 2024 presidential election.

While he has yet to announce, should he back a bunch of losers it could hurt a potential run.

“A big part of his aura is that he’s a winner. That’s his No. 1 thing,” Naughton said. “This is a big problem for him. If his endorsed candidates start losing, it really dents his aura as a winner — with voters, with Republican donors.”

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