Republicans Embolden to Endorse Trump
Ducey on Thursday announced his endorsement of Karrin Taylor Robson over Trump-backed Kari Lake in the GOP governor’s primary. (Ducey is time-limited.) And it’s just the latest high-profile move among prominent Republicans to endorse against Trump.
That Ducey would approve of his home state’s gubernatorial race isn’t terribly surprising, but he also happens to be the president of the Republican Governors Association, which makes his decision to get involved more interesting. .
Ducey did not approve in his capacity as president of the RGA, but NBC News reports that Ducey is considering asking RGA donors to fund a political action committee that backs Taylor Robson. NBC’s Allan Smith and Marc Caputo also report that Ducey’s endorsement could portend an endorsement from Pence – a move that would hasten a showdown between Trump and high-profile, establishment-focused Republicans who seem determined to turn the page and avoid extreme Republicans like Lake.
Lake made false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Taylor Robson said the election was ‘not fair’, but she didn’t go as far as Lake did, including during a debate last week in which she was the only candidate to refuse to say that the election had been stolen and corrupted.
Lake has been consistently polled as a frontrunner in the Aug. 2 primary. But former Congressman Matt Salmon’s recent decision to drop out of the race and endorse Taylor Robson appears to have worked to Taylor Robson’s advantage. The most recent polls suggest the race is tight, and a victory from behind by Taylor Robson would be a significant setback for Trump.
But it wouldn’t be the first. Top Republicans have chosen their place supporting Trump, but they have often chosen Trump’s right.
Pence’s big entry into the 2022 endorsement game came two months ago in Georgia, when he endorsed Kemp over former Trump-backed U.S. Senator David Perdue. Kemp ended up beating Perdue, 74% to 22%. An emboldened Kemp then came out against Trump in a key House runoff, in which his nominee Mike Collins beat Trump-backed Vernon Jones by a remarkably similar percentage of 74% to 26%.
That Kemp and Collins won was hardly surprising – both endorsements came after each appeared to be on their way to victory – but the margins by which they won were surprising. Collins led Jones by four points on the first day, but beat him by nearly 50 points in the second round. Kemp’s win was also far bigger than in any pre-primary poll.
The other big endorsement showdown between Trump and an incumbent governor came in Nebraska, where incumbent Governor Pete Ricketts (R) went all-in for Jim Pillen against Trump-backed Charles Herbster. Pillen won by five runs. Again, it’s unclear how much this had to do with Ricketts’ endorsement — Herbster faced high-profile sexual misconduct allegations late in the race — but it was one of the first big setbacks. for Trump.
More Republicans are working to undermine Trump’s endorsements
This was also arguably the case in the US Senate race in Alabama. Trump backed Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) at first, but Brooks struggled. Meanwhile, Katie Britt clearly had establishment support, with incumbent Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and other senators endorsing her. Trump had attacked Britt as the nominee of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (McConnell never publicly endorsed the race.) Eventually, Trump withdrew his endorsement of Brooks and, when it became clear that Britt was the run-off favorite, endorsed her.
It hasn’t gone so well for the top Republicans who backed Trump in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed David McCormick over Trump-endorsed Mehmet Oz, but Oz picked up a narrow victory on primary day .
These runs account for 4 of Trump’s top 10 losses (depending on how you count Alabama). So when top Republicans have come forward, they’ve often been successful.
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing, particularly when it comes to the timing of endorsements. But what is clear is that establishment-oriented Republicans are becoming less shy about backing Trump in some high-profile races.
The goal may be more to nominate more eligible candidates than to send a message to Trump. But, unlike Kemp, Ducey and Pence saw their political futures arguably short-circuited by Trump’s post-2020 crusade and attacks on them, with Ducey opting against running for the US Senate (Trump had said Ducey “couldn’t get the nomination”) and under watch your numbers drop among Republicans, jeopardizing his chances of ever becoming president.
Given that history, asserting some ability to steer the party in a different direction from Trump — and elevating Republicans like them above Trump’s campaign truthers — provides at least a consolation prize.