By Madison Cooper
With the notable exception of Alabama’s special election Senatorial Race, an endorsement from President Trump has been a surefire guarantee of victory for most Republican candidates.. Since taking office, President Trump has done well in endorsing winning candidates, rallying voters and extending his coattails to bring more allies into Congress and state governments across the country.
So far in 2018 twelve candidates endorsed by Trump have been successful in their primaries. This hasn’t been confined to one geographic region either, with Trump-backed candidates racking up wins from Kansas to New York to California to Texas. Most of these endorsements have been located in battleground states or vulnerable House districts as well, showcasing the president’s electoral muscle where it will be needed most to counter the prospective ‘blue wave’.
Alongside the twelve victories, the President has endorsed sixteen Senate candidates, one of which included a prominent “Never Trump” conservative, Mitt Romney. While the President had originally pressed Orrin Hatch to stay in as Utah’s senior senator, he begrudgingly endorsed the former Republican Presidential nominee once it became clear that he was the likely man to take the veteran senator’s seat.
Twenty eight house and gubernatorial candidates can also boast the President’s support on the campaign trail. While the endorsements have predictably gone to Republican candidates, Democrats in red states, whether it be Joe Manchin in West Virginia or Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, have used their closeness with the President in an attempt to appeal to voters who are on the fence.
Georgians in particular have seen the effects of the Trump endorsement. In an exceptionally well-funded and publicized election, Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff for Tom Price’s former seat. Despite national fundraising and activism, or perhaps because of it, Ossoff’s Democratic campaign failed to turn the seat blue against the Trump endorsed candidate. Ossoff’s loss left a bitter taste in the mouth for many Democrats, both inside and outside of the state, as it was a demoralizing defeat in the first major swing election of the Trump era. The closeness of the election in a historically strong Republican district caught the attention of the President who endorsed Handel and used his bully pulpit on Twitter to remind Georgia voters to “vote R.”
This was Trump’s first real foray into the Peach State’s politics, but it was never going to be an isolated incident. During the Republican gubernatorial runoff, Trump endorsed Brian Kemp, Georgia’s outspoken secretary of state, turning what was a close race into a landslide victory for Kemp. Perhaps even more notable was that it went against the endorsement of Georgia’s popular and term-limited governor, Nathan Deal. While Trump’s endorsement power will be put to the test in the general election, it is abundantly clear that Georgia’s Republican voters still follow the President’s lead.
However, the President has an electoral map that extends far outside the borders of Braves territory, and there are a few candidates who could use a Trump endorsement in close races.
Who Trump Should Endorse Next
- Martha McSally, (R-AZ)
– The Republican primary in Arizona has been conflicting, to say the least. While all three candidates have at least some sort of relationship with the President, Martha McSally is the front runner, and it would serve Trump well to endorse her. Each of the three candidates have highlighted their relationships with the President. McSally has had numerous interactions with the President, Kelli Ward has Trump’s preferred medium of Twitter to point to, and Arpaio was personally pardoned by the President. The Republican primary has been bitter, and all of the candidates have been engaged in serious intra-party infighting. All the while, the Democratic nominee, Kyrsten Sinema, has been able to focus on consolidating her base of support and reaching out to moderates, as she did not have the same primary competition.
The President should choose Martha McSally as his endorsement because she can win those same moderate voters Sinema is courting. The other two candidates are different strains of hard-liners, and would only serve to drive moderates further into Sinema’s camp. If Trump truly believes McSally is “the real deal,” he should find the time to endorse her.
- Rod Blum (R-IA)
– It’s pretty atypical for an incumbent in a friendly district to need the help of an endorsement, but in this case, Rod Blum needs all the help he can get. Roll Call named Rod Blum the most vulnerable member of the House of Representatives up for reelection. While Blum’s district did vote for President Trump, Democratic nominee Abby Finkenauer has emerged as the clear front-runner for the race. This, in large part, is of his own making. Blum is currently in hot water over his ownership of an undisclosed marketing company, an omission he claims was an “administrative oversight.” A Trump endorsement could ease his voters’ minds and help him to retain his house seat in a year where corruption has become a mainstay in the media. It would also dampen Democratic enthusiasm, as they would be thrilled to gain this seat in a Trump-leaning district of Iowa.
- Mike DeWine (R-OH)
– The open gubernatorial seat in Ohio is angling to be one of the most competitive in the entire nation, pitting former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Chief Richard Cordray against Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine. President Trump has already made some endorsements in Ohio in 2018, endorsing both a Senate candidate and Troy Balderson in a House race that was too close for comfort for many Republicans. The President gave considerable attention to these legislative races, but he has yet to switch his focus to the gubernatorial race taking place in the state. Ohio, a perennial battleground state, is an important target for Republicans this cycle and defeat could spell disaster. The President would do well to endorse and campaign for Mike DeWine. DeWine won his primary with 59.8% of the vote, showcasing his popularity with Ohioans. However, Dewine will likely need the endorsement of the President to keep the state from turning blue.