Trump Losing Sway with Republican Voters?

We can only hope.

National Journal columnist Josh Kraushaar looks at several contested Republican primaries where candidates endorsed by the former President are faring poorly.

Former President Trump is staring at a real chance that his endorsed candidates go zero-for-three in competitive Senate primaries in May, an outcome that would underscore his already mixed record in primaries and raise serious questions about the depth of his political clout within the Republican Party. Trump’s undisciplined political strategy, seeking to punish any candidate he deems disloyal, faces a wall of resistance in the South, one of the most pro-Trump regions of the country during his presidency.

From North Carolina to Alabama, Senate candidates are failing to capitalize on the Trump seal of approval. Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has weathered millions in outside attacks from the Trump-allied Club for Growth and leads Trump-endorsed Rep. Ted Budd in several publicly released polls. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp now leads former Sen. David Perdue by double digits in multiple polls, while holding a significant financial advantage down the home stretch. Trump-endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks has underperformed so badly in Alabama’s Senate race that the former president is reportedly considering endorsing one of his leading rivals. All these primaries will be taking place in May.

In June, Trump’s clout in House races will be tested in South Carolina, with Reps. Nancy Mace and Tom Rice facing off against Trump-backed challengers. Trump held a rally for Mace’s challenger Katie Arrington and Rice’s leading opponent Russell Fry last weekend. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a likely future presidential candidate, headlined a fundraiser for Mace last week, a sign of the emerging proxy war between two opposing wings of the Republican Party. Multiple pollsincluding one from Arrington’s campaign, show Mace leading in the head-to-head matchup. Rice, one of the 10 House Republicans to support Trump’s impeachment last year, is in more precarious shape.

Adding insult to injury, Trump’s past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin is now proving to be a major vulnerability for MAGA-aligned candidates—at the worst possible time. By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Republicans rejected the isolationist notion that the war in Ukraine is “none of our business” in a recent Reuters-Ipsos poll. Yet Trump touted the Russian dictator’s strategic savvy at a recent fundraising event on the eve of Russia’s invasion, with many of his endorsed candidates in attendance. McCrory, after being hit as a “Republican In Name Only” in pro-Budd ads, went up with his first ad attacking Budd for being soft on Russia. “These are serious times and we need serious senators. … I don’t compliment our enemies. I stand for truth and freedom,” McCrory says in the ad. The nonstop news coverage of the war in Ukraine is also preventing the Trump-backed challengers from getting much media attention at a time when intraparty politics feels downright small by comparison.

He does a deeper dive into the three Senate races and it does seem quite likely Trump will go 0-for-3 in them. Whether that’s a function of his declining influence, his penchant for backing the wrong horse, or the fact that endorsements tend not to matter all that much in American politics is hard to disaggregate.

Certainly, the fact that Republicans, whose coalition was at least partly forged by anti-Communism during the Cold War, are rejecting the bizarre rallying around Vladimir Putin during his invasion of Ukraine shouldn’t be surprising. That Georgia Republicans look set to overwhelmingly re-nominate Kemp, who stood in the way of Trump’s attempt to overturn his state’s Presidential election, is perhaps more telling. But there’s also this:

“Trump’s no longer president. People’s attention is shifting to how bad Joe Biden is, not the last election. And time heals a lot of wounds,” said the Kemp adviser. “Trump’s also spread himself pretty thin here. He’s done everything but endorse people for dogcatcher here and in states across the country.”

Even while Republicans overwhelmingly tell pollsters they believe the Big Lie, it’s simply a fact that Trump lost. A loser running around giving speeches is simply less compelling.

Of course, his lack of success in swaying voters to candidates who kiss his ass may not tell us much about his own viability as a candidate. It’s not clear who can beat him in a Republican primary. Certainly, not Mitt Romney. Moving on to Ron DeSantis or the like would, I suppose, be an improvement. But it would still mean a Trumper as the nominee.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Writing from DeSantistan, no, DeSantis would not be an improvement. His big claim to fame is COVID. Post vaccine availability, FL had one of the highest per capita death rates in the country. From CRT to LGBT to reproductive rights and beyond he’s pursued every RW pander. And he’s been very effective at it. Trump’s only saving grace was his incompetence. DeSantis is more evil than Trump, but he’s good at it.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: I certainly couldn’t vote for DeSantis. My preference for him over Trump is mostly in getting past the cult of personality, not to mention the criminality.

    3
  3. Not the IT Dept. says:

    If Trump does lose his sway with the GOP, then I suggest it’s because someone worse will have come along.

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  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Charles Cooke had a piece on the NR website calling for R’s to move beyond Trump in 24. That the party has a host of possible nominees that are better. Cooke wasn’t the first pundit who came to TFG late that is calling on the party to move on.

    The caterwauling about 2020 has gotten old for all but the most ardent FG supporters and voters, in general, look forward and not back.

    1
  5. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve been saying since well before the 2020 election that Trump would, one way or another, eventually go away and that Republicans would then shout that they got rid of him and that with him gone we can trust Republicans again. We can’t.

    Over on Wednesday’s Forum there’s some discussion of how bad Reagan was, with some mention of W. A few days ago I commented on The Paranoid Style In American Politics which shows all this going back to the Goldwater campaign of 1964. All that’s happened since is that Movement Conservatism has become better organized, spent huge piles of money, and learned better how to use modern advertising and communication methods to manipulate the electorate. Or at least the most gullible third of the electorate. At the same time they’ve learned how to govern with a minority of the electorate, or at least block anyone else from governing. Trump was something of an accident and bump in the road for Movement Conservatism. They’d like to move on, destroying the country in a more dignified manner.

    It ain’t just Trump.

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve said from the beginning that Trump is not a black swan but rather the logical next step in the Republican journey. If it wasn’t Trump it would have been someone equally repulsive. The fact that Trump was so obvious about what he was after is the only thing that made him kind of unique. When he was running in the primary I used to say “Trump IS the Republican Party”, meaning that he perfectly represented who they were. And by “they” I mean those who vote in the primaries, not the politicians themselves. Since 1964 there were many, many Republican politicians who tried to steer the ship away from the rocks, but they either got old and gave up or the passengers threw them overboard.

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  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Certainly, the fact that Republicans, whose coalition was at least partly forged by anti-Communism during the Cold War, are rejecting the bizarre rallying around Vladimir Putin during his invasion of Ukraine shouldn’t be surprising.

    And yet, how many voted in favor of impeachment of trump over his attempted shakedown of Ukraine? Yeah, I don’t recall any either. But the wind has changed directions and if nothing else, they are one and all shameless weather vanes.

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  8. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    I certainly couldn’t vote for DeSantis. My preference for him over Trump is mostly in getting past the cult of personality, not to mention the criminality.

    I understand that point James. I also fear that someone who has the majority of Trump’s values AND a slightly greater air of “respectability” (not to mention a more even temperament) can actually do far more damage in the long term than Trump.

    Especially given Republicans’ baked-in electoral advantages.

    In many respects, I’d rather have Trump run again in ’24, even if he gets the nomination than the more “respectable” DeSantis (who I think would pull in some of the folks who stayed at home or voted in protest for someone else). Trump may go, but the overall ideology he represents is still alive and with us.

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  9. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    For what it’s worth, Romney voted to impeach Trump over Ukraine.

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  10. Kathy says:

    Rule of thumb: when a headline asks a question, usually the answer is “no.”

    Past that, call me if Benito runs and doesn’t get the nomination.

    3
  11. ptfe says:

    @mattbernius: This is my big fear for 2024. It really doesn’t look like the American populace learned anything about the Republican Party’s policies. The Right dgaf about the consequences of their ideas on anybody but the rich – mostly white, mostly men. They never have, and they show no signs of moving that direction. This is the wing in control of the Republican Party, no matter who the spokesperson is.

    If the Republican Party were a band, the Trump era was one guy insisted on playing every instrument really badly but still selling CDs because he also yelled “f- you!” to every minority and disadvantaged group he could think of over the top of his terrible production. The party’s fix? Update the production value, rewrite the music, and sing the lyrics a little softer next time.

    The only daylight between Romney and Trump is that Romney will say that Trump sucked as a leader. Whooptie f’in doo m-f, now try addressing the entire theme of his presidency – the constant stream of minority-bashing, business-fellating, government-wrecking trash – instead of just presenting a cleaned-up cover of the exact same song.

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  12. CSK says:

    This news should cause you all to vibrate with excitement: For only $49.99 you, too, can be the proud possessor of a copy of The Greatest Speeches of President Donald J. Trump. Yes! Don’t miss out! Buy now while supplies last!

    The publisher is one Humanix Books, of which I’d never heard but which appears to be a subsidiary of Newsmax. You may check out their offerings at http://www.humanixbooks.com . Note the “Our Authors” tab. Apparently, they don’t have any.

  13. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    His actual speeches, or did they just remove 90% of all words in a dictionary and then mixed them up at random?

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I couldn’t recall if anyone did, so that’s what I said. 😉 I can weasel with the best of them.

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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Why do you hate me? Better question, Why do I hate myself? I didn’t have to click on that link.

    2
  16. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    Only the best words, Kathy. Only the best words. Trump has the best words, as he himself will inform you.
    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Don’t be silly. I’m very fond of you. As with all links, proceed at your own risk.

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  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @ptfe:

    Whooptie f’in doo m-f, now try addressing the entire theme of his presidency – the constant stream of minority-bashing, business-fellating, government-wrecking trash – instead of just presenting a cleaned-up cover of the exact same song.

    You do get that you’re talking about destroying the entire conservative movement, right? What kind of socialistic anarchist slime are you?

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  18. dazedandconfused says:

    A good book would be “Everything Putin Touches Dies”

    I can’t imagine DeSantis running against Trump for the nomination and not being so thoroughly slimed by Trump that nobody would still be calling him a Trumper. Being a Trumper in Trump’s eyes isn’t about policy, it’s about kneeling before Zod.

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  19. CSK says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    Perhaps more about kissing Zod’s extremely copious derriere.

  20. Matt says:

    @James Joyner: In my limited experience on this earth I have seen the GOP lurch from one cult of personality to another. Reagan bush jr then Trump (with a littler flirtation with Palin). Hell there’s still a cult following for the myth that is Reagan…

    I don’t see it ending any time soon ..

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  21. gVOR08 says:

    @Matt:

    have seen the GOP lurch from one cult of personality to another. Reagan bush jr then Trump (with a littler flirtation with Palin).

    The ideal GOP candidate has some sort of common man charisma and is dumb enough to believe what he’s saying. Reagan, W, and Palin all met those criteria. I’d say Trump did too, but Trump and belief don’t go together in the same sentence.

  22. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    I think in Trump’s case it was just dumb luck on his part. A certain segment of the populace decided swinishness was a hallmark of authenticity, and he, with his limitless swinishness, was able to appeal to that demographic. They’d never before had such a robust example of a churl for whom to vote.

  23. Matt says:

    @CSK: I know more than a few people who voted for Trump purely because the right people “hated him” aka the media, elites, liberals etc… One of those people claimed they would of voted for Bernie but I don’t see how that would of happened..

  24. CSK says:

    @Matt:
    Oh, I’m sure “owning the libs” was, and still is, a huge factor in Trump’s popularity with certain people.

  25. Chip Daniels says:

    The Republicans, post Cold War, have been a reactionary authoritarian faction searching for a leader.

    We always talk about Presidents in order to describe the movement of history, but in this case its more instructive to look at the Congressional, state and local figures, and the ideological narrative they embrace to see the evolving pattern.

    In the Cold War they had a coherent philosophy and the matching figures like Reagan and Buckley to carry the banner.
    After 1990, they slowly lost the coherence and social issues rose to the surface, to where in 2004 Karl Rove tried to use same sex marriage as their go-to vote getter.
    Not foreign relations, not economic issues, but social reaction and white male grievance became their calling card.

    After the 2012 election the Onion jokingly stated that the front runner for the 2016 Republican nomination was “Shrieking white hot ball of rage”, and true enough, Trump was nominated.

    Even if Trump falls dead tomorrow, this won’t change. The seething rage, the hunger for a figure to express the grievance of the base is still there, just yearning for a figure to embody it.

    1
  26. gVOR08 says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    the grievance of the base is still there, just yearning for a figure to embody it.

    And there’s a long line of Ivy League lawyers wanting to be the next “populist” leader. Including DeSantis, Yale BA and Harvard Law.

    1