Republican governors face Trump litmus test ahead of election
Within the GOP, the former president’s hostility to office holders and candidates who refuse to accept his bogus allegations of voter fraud has fueled fears that Trump could have a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of candidates. party governors, especially as it threatens to enlist the main challengers against some incumbents, several Republicans told CNN.
Earlier this year, for example, former Rep. Candice Miller, who had already won two races across the state of Michigan and was seen as a potentially formidable challenger to Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, announced that she would not be in contention. Miller, now Macomb County Public Works Commissioner, criticized Democratic objections to the 2004 Electoral College results, but did not weigh in on Trump‘s false claims about the 2020 contest. And in Pennsylvania, the Republican Senator Outgoing Pat Toomey surprised GOP state agents when he announced both his intention to step down from the upper house and stay out of the governor’s race.
One of Ducey’s main allies, who was granted anonymity to speak freely, said Republicans would normally have “scared” Democrats in those states because of the party’s ability to recruit “highly qualified candidates.” “. But Trump, said this person, “has hampered and complicated these efforts.”
Part of the problem is that Trump’s litmus test requiring candidates to accept his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen leaves little room for nuance – creating potential problems for GOP candidates who must appeal. to MAGA conservatives to claim victory in a primary without alienating the moderates – the voters they will likely need to win later statewide.
“You have to agree the election was stolen or else Trump is going to smoke you, and in some races that could mean Republicans will end up with less eligible candidates in the general election,” said longtime Republican strategist Rob. Stutzman, the former communications director of former GOP California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Trump-Ducey relationship remains strained
Despite being responsible for protecting the incumbent Republican governors who are re-elected next fall, Ducey is one of the only GOP leaders involved in the party’s electoral machinery who has not met Trump since the election of 2020 to discuss the former president’s involvement in upcoming governor races. or to demand that he stop actively recruiting primary challengers to take on Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, one of two Republican governors Trump has very publicly criticized since the November election. Others, like Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the GOP Senate Campaign Committee, made the pilgrimage to Mar -a-Lago to snuggle up with Trump – or in McCarthy’s case, to iron out his relationship with the former president.
Trump’s senior adviser Jason Miller told CNN there had been no outreach on either side to schedule a meeting between Ducey and the former president. Trump, he added, has independently assessed some races and may hold a rally in Georgia this summer to support both a Kemp challenger and Rep. Jody Hice, who recently announced plans for Secretary of State. ‘Georgia Chief State Brad Raffensberger. Both Kemp and Raffensberger have refused to invalidate the 2020 state election results amid intense calls from Trump and his campaign to do so after losing the state to Joe Biden last November.
“President Trump is going to help Republicans win governor’s races across the country and he doesn’t need Doug Ducey to do that,” Miller said.
The RGA did not respond to several requests for comment.
Democrats took advantage of the fractured relationship between Trump and Ducey to say their party had a distinct advantage in the gubernatorial races, with Republicans distracted by internal party bickering. The group will soon launch RGAinDisarray.com, a website that highlights “the GOP’s bitter internal feud” over the 2020 election results, according to a person familiar with the plan, and has relished Trump’s criticism of Republican governors in exercise such as Kemp and Ohio Gov Mike DeWine, both candidates for re-election in 2022.
Democratic Governors Association political director Marshall Cohen noted that Trump’s loyalty test had, in some cases, placed Ducey in the uncomfortable position of defending Republican incumbents who broke away from his own opposition to fraud allegations. election to align with the former president.
“Ducey is not only at odds with the former president, but at odds with other governors who sided with the former president,” Cohen told CNN, adding that “closeness to Trump is a currency in Republican politics “that Arizona governor currently lacks.
âHe doesn’t have it and that puts the RGA at a disadvantage in a key cycle,â Cohen said.
Trump and his company expand involvement in governor’s races
Between now and next November, 38 states will host gubernatorial elections – including two elections this fall in Virginia and New Jersey and a scheduled recall election in California targeting incumbent Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Already, Trump and his allies are involved in several of these races. While Ducey has pledged to back the incumbent GOP governors, the former president and many of his former campaign aides have worked behind the scenes to recruit insurgent Republican opponents or advise potential candidates on how to effectively take the incumbents. democrats.
A person close to Trump said the former president remains frustrated with DeWine, who was among the first Republicans to recognize Biden as president-elect last fall, despite the Republican governor’s deep involvement in Trump’s re-election campaign. Yet Trump did not seek out candidates to challenge the Ohio Republican or even privately encourage potential candidates to do so, including former Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, who allegedly campaigned against DeWine and worked closely with Brad Parscale, former Trump campaign manager.
“He’s angry with DeWine but not in the same way he’s angry with Kemp,” this person said, noting that Trump had promised to campaign against the governor of Georgia and was actively seeking a candidate aligned with MAGA for the primary Kemp.
Some Republican candidates have quickly embraced the former president, regardless of his popularity in their states, as they work their way to nomination in competitive GOP primaries. During a GOP primary debate on Tuesday night, New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Hirsh Singh repeated Trump’s baseless claim that he won the 2020 election – displaying a MAGA ball cap ” Trump Won âat one point during the debate and describing his opponent, former State Congressman Jack Ciattarelli, asâ Republican RINO Never-Trump â.
Others, like Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, have engaged in strategic balances – attempting to align with Trump while keeping some distance from the most radical demands and policies of the United States. ‘former president. For example, in the run-up to Virginia’s nominating convention, Youngkin refused to recognize Biden as the rightfully elected president and often spoke of the need for enhanced “electoral integrity” in the United States. But in a May 13 interview on Fox Business, after winning the nomination, Youngkin told Fox Business that Biden “has been rightfully elected our president.” Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who hopes to become Democratic gubernatorial candidate after his party’s June 8 primary, ran to define Youngkin as a Trump sycophant immediately after the Republican received approval from the former president in the wake of the GOP naming convention. .
In Michigan, Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has had “overwhelmingly positive” conversations with Ducey and McDaniel about his potential run against Whitmer, according to a person briefed on the talks, has previously avoided questions about Trump, who narrowly lost the state in 2020. Ducey described Craig as “out of the central cast” in an interview Wednesday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Asked earlier this month, however, whether he believed Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, Craig simply told reporters, “I’m not going to talk about politics.”