Senate Republicans urge Trump to stay out of primaries amid electability concerns

Donald Trump
FILE – Former President Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate on April 4, 2023, in Palm Beach, Fla., after being arraigned earlier in the day in New York City. After his initial court appearance in the New York case, the first of several in which he is in legal jeopardy, Trump ticked through the varied investigations he was facing and branded them as “massive” attempts to interfere with the 2024 election. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) Evan Vucci/AP

Senate Republicans urge Trump to stay out of primaries amid electability concerns

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Senate Republicans, ranging from centrists to MAGA world, are publicly advising former President Donald Trump against getting involved in 2024 GOP primaries.

In his capacity as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s Senate campaign arm, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) has been walking a political tightrope — supporting candidates with general election appeal while trying to avoid alienating loyal Trump supporters. The approach marks a shift in strategy from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Daines’s predecessor as NRSC chief, who faced criticism for Republicans’ lackluster showing in the 2022 midterm elections and had a rocky working relationship with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

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The NRSC remained neutral under Scott’s leadership in the 2022 primary process, which led to controversial Trump-backed candidates costing Republicans several critical battleground races in the midterm elections and, thus, control of the Senate. Out of all the candidates Trump endorsed in the primaries for statewide races in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) was the only one to win in the general election.

Daines has reportedly been in touch with the former president and Donald Trump Jr., his eldest son and a friend of the Montana senator, as part of a larger effort to keep all camps on the same page about candidate selection matters. The goal is to avoid messy primary fights that left weakened some 2022 candidates in their general election contests. The stakes are especially high given that Republicans only need to net two seats to win back the Senate in 2024.

Still, GOP senators expressed worry about Trump’s potential involvement.

“If I were him, I’d focus on his own election, but I doubt if he’ll take that advice,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close Trump ally, said.

“You need to learn from your past mistakes,” he added. “If you don’t make adjustments, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, it’s insanity.”

Asked if Trump staying out of the primary process would be better, Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD), who has been standing in for McConnell as he recovers from a concussion, said, “Sure seems like that would be helpful based on our lack of success in 2022.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), a prominent Trump foe who voted to impeach the former president twice, said the Senate Republican conference was largely in agreement that Trump putting his thumb on the scale would do more harm than good.

“I hope he stays out because him getting involved last time led to us losing key Senate races we could have won,” Romney said. “I think it’s viewed [that way] by almost every single member of the caucus, if not all of them, but I think few will say it because they don’t want to get the wrath of Donald Trump.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of Senate GOP leadership who previously served as NRSC chairman, said the issue of primary complications “never goes away. Republicans need to make up their mind. Do we want to win, or do we want to lose? And I think that it’s that simple, and I think people are tired of losing.”

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Daines is attempting to oust his same-state colleague Sen. Jon Tester, a centrist Democrat from deep red Montana who faces a tough reelection fight, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), who left the Democratic Party late last year and is campaigning as an independent against candidates from both parties. He is also searching for challengers for Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and others.

Manchin, a centrist Democrat representing the heavily Republican state of West Virginia, is withholding his decision on running for reelection until Daines and McConnell’s top GOP recruit decides whether to challenge him. The two men have spent months trying to persuade Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV), a Democrat-turned-Republican who significantly outperforms Manchin in polls, to enter the race.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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