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Trump faces test of his ‘kingmaker’ influence

May brings Donald Trump the biggest test of his political clout since the end of his presidency, as candidates he endorsed vie for the Republican primaries that will set the stage for the midterm congressional elections. of November.

Trump-backed candidates in Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina face active, well-funded challengers seeking the Republican nomination to run for the U.S. Senate. The former president also backed a challenger to the incumbent Republican governor of Georgia, who angered Trump by dismissing his false claims that his 2020 election loss was the result of fraud.

They are among the most prominent — and in the case of the Senate, the most critical of the party — of the more than 150 federal, state and local election candidates Trump has endorsed this year. Their races will be closely watched for any signs that Trump’s iron grip on his party may weaken as he flirts with a possible run for the White House in 2024.

“It’s important for him to maintain this perception, and perhaps a reality, that he’s a kingmaker in the Republican Party,” said Mike DuHaime, a Republican strategist, cautioning, “The endorsement of Trump is still powerful, but she’s not invincible.”

Victories in May for some of Trump’s most controversial Senate picks, including former soccer star Herschel Walker in Georgia and TV doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, would not guarantee success in the Nov. 8 general election and missteps could allow Democrats to keep their razor. narrow majority in the Senate.

Polls show at least one of Trump’s picks in May, Senate nominee JD Vance in Ohio, is in the lead heading into his primary on Tuesday. But Oz trails rival David McCormick ahead of the May 17 Pennsylvania primary and former Sen. David Perdue trails Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ahead of their May 24 game.

Poor performances by Trump-backed candidates may not diminish his support among his core supporters. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week showed 83% of Republicans view the former president favorably and 40% said he is the leader who best represents their party, well ahead of his most likely 25% rival. close for the 2024 nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“His power base is made up of tens of millions of disgruntled voters across the country,” said Justin Sayfie of Ballard Partners, a Florida-based lobbying firm linked to Trump. “No matter what happens to his endorsed nominees, I don’t think it will change the conventional wisdom that he would always be the frontrunner for the GOP nomination for 2024.”

Trump is expected to finalize a midterm spending plan for his massive war chest after contests in Ohio and Pennsylvania, sources told Reuters last month. Read the full story

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

TRUMP’S CANDIDATES

Trump stunned Republicans in Ohio on April 15 by endorsing Vance, a venture capitalist and author who bitterly criticized the former president.

More than 40 Republican officials had written to Trump urging him not to endorse Vance, arguing his history of criticizing Trump would be fodder for his Democratic opponent.

Following Trump’s endorsement, a Fox News poll showed Vance jumped 12 percentage points from a previous poll to win the support of 23% of primary voters, while opponent Josh Mandel lost 2 points in the ballot to 18%. However, 25% of voters say they are undecided.

In Pennsylvania, Trump’s April 9 endorsement of Oz did little to shake the polls, with the latest survey showing a close race with former hedge fund CEO McCormick.

In a Monmouth University poll released last week, 61% of Republicans in Pennsylvania say they are “very likely” to vote for McCormick compared to 51% for Oz.

In North Carolina, polls show Trump-backed Senate candidate Rep. Ted Budd as former Gov. Pat McCrory’s main rival, though a crowded field in that race could force a runoff in July. Read the full story

In Georgia, Trump defied the Republican establishment by encouraging Perdue to challenge the popular incumbent Kemp, who infuriated Trump by certifying 2020 election results that showed President Joe Biden defeated him in the state.

Perdue trailed Kemp by about 20 points in a recent poll published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Georgia is going to be the testing ground for what the rest of the country is going to see: it’s time to turn the page,” said Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, an anti-Trump Republican.

Even Trump’s faith in Perdue seems to waver. At a rally in Georgia in March, Trump turned to Perdue and said, “I hope, David, you’re gonna be the governor. Or I just wasted a lot of time tonight.”

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco and Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)