Trump lost those states. Republican gubernatorial candidates mimic him anyway.
National politics seeped into governor races years before Trump entered politics – and governor campaigns have always maintained a unique degree of detachment. But Trump’s influence on the GOP quickly pushed his policies and signing rhetoric into the 2022 governor’s races – particularly his false conspiratorial claims that “electoral integrity” is at risk or even that the 2020 election is threatening him. were stolen. Republican candidates are repeating these claims like parrots when running for positions that will have a significant influence on electoral procedures in their states, potentially including the certification of future elections.
“I say [Trump], the only way to ensure that in 2024 we have a Republican president is to need a leader here in the state of Nevada who understands our election laws and [is] ready to change them, ”Dean Heller, a former Republican senator currently running for Nevada governor, said during the recent debate. He called the state’s current laws “corrupt” and said he would make state elections “fair”.
“Republicans win when the process is fair,” said Heller, who occasionally clashed with Trump during the president’s first year, but then brought Trump closer in his losing 2018 campaign. “I want a president. Republican in 2024. It will take a Republican governor to make the changes necessary to make that happen. “
In Pennsylvania, State Senator Doug Mastriano – who rose to prominence by repeating Trump’s election lies and pushing for an election “audit” in his home state – denounced two Trump associates at his campaign launch last weekend: Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis. Both were among the most vocal supporters of the 2020 election plots.
A list of agents with ties to Trump are finding work in the state. State Senate President Jake Corman announced his team included Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s last campaign manager in 2016, while former Rep. Lou Barletta hired the cabinet of Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, who led Trump’s campaign until election day 2020. Bill McSwain, who was an American lawyer during the Trump administration hired former Trump campaign aide James Fitzpatrick to lead his campaign.
Pennsylvania – where the main field is so vast that forum organizers had to cram two parallel rows of desks on stage at an event last week – illustrates the vast roster of Republican gubernatorial candidates running in states swing like Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada. Democrats control the governor’s mansion in all of those states except Arizona.
The exception to the overcrowded primary rule has been Wisconsin, where former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is so far the GOP’s only credible challenger against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. But even there, Trump tried to recruit former Rep. Sean Duffy before going on a campaign last week, and former Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson is actively considering jumping into the race.
Candidates on the other side of the map are vying for Trump’s approval. Trump has so far largely missed the GOP’s open primaries in the most competitive states of 2022 – weighing only in Arizona to back former TV presenter Kari Lake.
However, he does give Lake a bit of political muscle at the start. Trump’s political committee announced Tuesday that Lake will join the former president on stage at his state rally on Saturday – alongside prominent electoral conspiracy theorists Mike Lindell and state representative Mark Finchem, whom Trump has said. argued for the Secretary of State. This is Trump’s first rally in 2022.
But even for candidates who don’t get Trump’s backing, winning over the former president’s supporters will still be the key to a Republican primary.
“Not only do you not run away from this, but you accept it without hesitation,” said Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based Republican agent who works for an outside organization backing former Representative Matt Salmon’s candidacy for governor. in the state.
Former Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), Who has criticized Trump since leaving three years ago, said there will be “a concerted attempt by some candidates to shore up Trump supporters first, so in this regard, there is a way Trump. ” But Costello has warned that many candidates vying for the same group of voters could fracture the vote in a primary and the pitch is volatile in his state.
“It’s important to note that not all Trump-first voters are reliable primary voters outside of the year,” he added.
It is not known whether Trump will support the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary. He had previously backed Army veteran Sean Parnell in the open race for the State Senate, only to see Parnell suspend his campaign after losing custody of his children over abuse allegations from his ex- wife. He now remains out of that race for the time being, although that could change.
But Pennsylvania Republicans expect Trump’s approval, if he comes forward, to play a big role in the governor’s primary decision, former Trump administration official Mick McKeown said. , originally from Pennsylvania.
“He’s still the biggest name in politics, no matter what you think of him. And for Republican primary voters, I think he can still resonate with a significant part of the base,” he said. “In a crowded primary like this, an endorsement from President Trump, while onerous, would carry even more weight. “
Democrats, meanwhile, have led the way to replace Democratic limited-term Governor Tom Wolf, with state attorney general Josh Shapiro functionally unopposed for the nomination.
Democrats across the battlefield have sought to further highlight the candidates’ ties to Trump. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party regularly calls the GOP contest a “super MAGA” primary. And Nevada Democrats have warned on the anniversary of the Jan.6 attack on the United States Capitol that the Republican field continues to “embrace these dangerous lies and cast doubt on integrity.” of the Nevada elections ”.
Republicans are also warning that candidates on the battlefield will have to do more than tie in with Trump if they are to win in November.
Bill McCoshen, a well-connected Republican lobbyist from Wisconsin who briefly considered his own gubernatorial candidacy, highlighted Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor-elect of Virginia who upset former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe at the end of the year. last to overthrow the state, as having the “perfect model” for how to run for general election in a battlefield state.
“Take his approval, keep him at bay unless you absolutely have to have him for a rally and run your own race,” said McCoshen.
And National Republicans argue that candidates who cling to Trump are not coming back to hurt them in what is shaping up to be a strong Republican year.
“The thing to keep in mind right now is that the message and the issues that matter to voters are always on our side,” said Joanna Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Republican Governors Association. “At the end of the day, we always believe that no matter who comes out of some of the more competitive races, we’ll always have an effective message to deliver to the general, especially when you look at states with sitting Democratic governors.
Trump’s influence isn’t limited to open governors’ primaries in swing states. He has also increasingly sought to bring current Republican governors in line. Therefore, he supported Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, supporting former Senator David Perdue’s main challenge.
Trump is at war with Kemp, an otherwise low-end conservative politician, for failing to support his efforts to reverse Trump’s loss in the state. Even before approving Perdue, Georgia was set to be one of the most expensive governor’s races this year, with Democrats rallying to Stacey Abrams. But the approval there is tearing still healing wounds among the state party and could drain the bank account of whoever is ultimately the candidate.
But even with Trump playing an increasingly prominent role in the gubernatorial races, some Republican strategists believe it won’t last until the general election in November. There is still a line between almost uniformly nationalized congressional races and governing contests, they say.
“In most cases, the governor’s races are less focused on Washington, DC and therefore less on the Trump orientation of candidates,” said Christopher Nicholas, longtime Pennsylvania-based GOP consultant and adviser to the candidate for the post. of Governor Charlie Gerow in Pennsylvania. “Because governors have to, as the old saying goes, run trains on time. “