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Midterm Republicans turn to Youngkin playbook by shunning Trump

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 6 days ago Sarah Westwood
Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin reacts to the crowd during a rally in Glen Allen, Va., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Youngkin will face Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) © Steve Helber/AP Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin reacts to the crowd during a rally in Glen Allen, Va., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Youngkin will face Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Donald Trump’s endorsement may have helped a number of Republican candidates get through their midterm primaries this year — but some may now be wary of the former president's continued involvement.

Trump has reveled in what he describes as a highly successful endorsement track record. On Wednesday, he boasted of another Senate primary win in Alabama with the victory of his candidate, Katie Britt.

His endorsement of Britt came after a stunning reversal, however. Deeming his original pick, Rep. Mo Brooks, insufficiently committed to his quest to relitigate the 2020 election, Trump withdrew his endorsement of Brooks in March and later threw his backing behind Brooks's opponent.

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Britt’s win Tuesday with Trump’s backing illustrates a danger for the candidates now distancing themselves from Trump for the general election: that crossing Trump can come at a cost.

“Anybody who won with Trump’s endorsement has to be very cautious about the way in which they move away from him, lest he become their foe,” Charles Lipson, political science professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, told the Washington Examiner.

“The key positive figure here is Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, who managed to keep Trump’s supporters in line with him without hanging the albatross of Trump around his neck to alienate centrist independents,” Lipson added.

Youngkin’s victory in the 2021 gubernatorial race in Virginia, a state President Joe Biden carried just one year earlier, offered what many strategists at the time characterized as a road map for Republicans running in the post-Trump era.

And it’s one some GOP candidates appear eager to repeat in the midterm elections.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, has quietly scrubbed images of Trump from his campaign website and Facebook pages in the weeks since winning the state’s primary by a razor-thin margin, Axios reported.

Oz had fought for and then heavily promoted Trump’s endorsement in that primary, which helped deliver him his win over opponent David McCormick.

Herschel Walker, the former football star who won the Republican nomination for Senate in Georgia, does not feature Trump on his campaign website or Twitter page.

His messaging has focused on his small-town roots and his opposition to the Biden agenda, not the former president who backed him last fall, earlier than many other primary picks.

Although Walker appeared alongside Trump at a rally during the primary race, he has since adopted the Youngkin strategy of largely avoiding both criticism and praise of the former president as he runs in a state Biden carried in 2020.

Shortly before winning his primary, Walker even denied ever hearing of Trump’s election denial, sidestepping an issue that Democrats have sought to use as a cudgel in midterm races so far.

"I think reporters said that. I don't know whether President Trump said that. He's never said that to me," Walker told a local news station when asked in May about Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Other Republican candidates have retained symbols of their support for Trump after riding his endorsement to a primary win.

J.D. Vance, who won the Ohio Senate primary on May 3, still highlights his endorsement from Trump on his campaign website and prominently on his social media.

Unlike Georgia or Pennsylvania, however, Ohio is a state that supported Trump decisively in the 2020 election.

Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2020, retaining 2016 levels of support in that state even though a sufficient number of others slipped away from him to cost him the presidency.

Ignoring Trump is how some Republicans who crossed him in the aftermath of the 2020 election hope to survive primaries in which the former president has backed their opponents.

Rep. Nancy Mace (SC) managed to fend off a Trump-backed primary opponent this month by embracing many of Trump’s ideas and withholding criticism of him. A fellow Republican incumbent from the same state, Rep. Tom Rice, did not adhere to the same strategy — he continued to criticize Trump’s actions long after the dust had settled from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — and lost his primary to a Trump-backed opponent on the same night as Mace’s victory.

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“Candidates win primaries by appealing to activist base voters,” Lipson said. “But they don’t win general elections that way, which means that Republicans tend to run more conservatively — or, sometimes, in the Trump case, more as populists in primaries and then move toward the center in the general elections.”

A notable exception, Lipson noted, came in Georgia, where Republican candidates won primaries for both governor and secretary of state without Trump’s backing, suggesting that even some GOP base voters are ready to move away from Trump.

 

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Tags: Midterms 2022, Glenn Youngkin, Herschel Walker, Dr. Oz, Nancy Mace

Original Author: Sarah Westwood

Original Location: Midterm Republicans turn to Youngkin playbook by shunning Trump

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