By Dr. Harold A. Black
“Hi. I’m running for road superintendent and am endorsed by Donald Trump.”
If “all politics is local” then what is Donald Trump doing endorsing 194 candidates since leaving office? His endorsement of J.D. Vance for the Republican nomination for Senate in Ohio is credited as his signature win and his endorsement of losing candidates for governor, secretary of state, insurance commissioner, attorney general in Georgia and a congressional seat is cited as evidence of failure. Trump openly disliked the governor and secretary of state of Georgia due to their not supporting his allegations of election fraud but his endorsements in the races for attorney general and insurance commissioner are head-scratchers. Trump has endorsed candidates for state legislature, county commissioner, local judges, and even for mayor. Voters probably wonder what does Trump know about the issues important to voters in races for county commissioner?
If keeping score, Trump’s record thus far has been impressive. The losses have been Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina whose challenger was endorsed by virtually every elected North Carolina Republican; Herbster for governor in Nebraska who was accused of sexually assaulting several women; McGeachin for governor in Idaho who was running against the incumbent, Mace in South Carolina who was a popular incumbent endorsed by Nikki Haley and the five races in Georgia. The vast majority of Trump endorsements have been “safe” being for incumbents. Cawthorn is the only endorsed incumbent who lost. In Ohio, Vance ran in a crowded field and received 32 percent of the vote. But the candidates who embraced MAGA won 56 percent of the total. Trump endorsed Oz in Pennsylvania. Oz’s opponent openly courted Trump for his endorsement. The third candidate in Pennsylvania campaigned as being the most MAGA of the bunch. In a race that pitted two incumbent representatives against each other in West Virginia, the Trump-endorsed candidate won. Interestingly, that state’s only statewide elected Democrat, Joe Manchin endorsed the loser. In Alabama, Trump first endorsed Brooks for senate and then rescinded the endorsement and endorsed Brooks’ opponent, Britt. That Britt won over a six-term congressman shows Trump’s strength in Alabama. Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, five retired, Rice of South Carolina lost in the primary, Cheney (WY) is expected to lose, Valadao (CA) is in the general election, Beutler (WA) and Meijer (MI) face primary challengers on Aug 2.
So, what are we to glean about the Trump endorsements? First, endorsing an incumbent is likely a no-lose situation except where the incumbent is scandal-ridden. Second, endorsing someone running against a popular incumbent is likely to fail. Third, local voters are interested in local issues and although they may be Trump supporters, they are likely not to be swayed by an endorsement that runs contrary to their local interests. Fourth, Trump has an enormous ego and takes things personally. He is petty and while his supporters back many of his policies, fewer support his personal vendettas.
I would wager that if Trump ran against Biden, Georgia would overwhelmingly vote for Trump. Yet the same Georgia voters voted against all four of Trump-endorsed candidates. Fifth, my personal conclusion is that candidates that support MAGA issues will remain attractive to the majority of Trump voters but not necessarily Trump himself. Biden’s trying to link MAGA and Ultra-MAGA to white supremacy is a desperate attempt to divert attention from his administration’s failures and has gotten no traction among voters. Ironically, the most MAGA candidate in the Pennsylvania senate race was a black woman.
The proof will be in the Republican primaries for president where MAGA candidates may be running against Trump himself. Given the choice of a Ron DeSantis or a Donald Trump, I would again wager that the voters would continue to embrace MAGA but would reject Donald Trump.