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Trump Is Looming over Senate Races

Just in case you are not yet convinced that the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump, just look at the Senate races. Most Republican politicians know well that Trump is a millstone around the Party's neck and would love to move past him, but they know they can't say that out loud. In fact, they are saying the opposite. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), who is running for the Senate, just endorsed Trump's presidential bid. He didn't have to. He could have said it is too early or he is staying neutral or it is up to the voters. He didn't.

Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV), who is running for Senate in West Virginia, probably against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), also just endorsed Trump for president. Justice's main opponent, Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), then piped up that he endorsed Trump last year.

Now onto Montana. Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL and wealthy businessman, just jumped into the Senate race there saying that he supports Trump 100%. There is no reason to believe that any of these three Senate candidates actually support Trump. In fact, most likely all of them would prefer a stronger candidate at the top of the ticket with coattails they could grab on to. Trump's "coattails" seem to work in reverse. In 2022, most of the candidates he supported in competitive Senate races lost.

Ohio-based Republican strategist Mark Weaver said: "Donald Trump continues to be the biggest elephant in the Republican tent. Republican voters still want to see him as our party's leader." He added that other candidates feel that they have to endorse Trump, even though they are most likely privately worried that he could hurt their chances. But they know that if they do not support him, his wrath could destroy them. So in the short term, endorsing him is the safest course. They are basically hoping he dies or goes to prison, and gives them a "Get out of Jail Free" card, of a sort.

What about endorsements in the other direction? Trump is torn between two things. On the one hand, he likes candidates who kowtow to him. On the other hand, he also likes to go with the winner. Sometimes these things are in conflict. When they are not, it is an easy call. Trump has endorsed Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who is running for the open Senate seat in Indiana. Banks is seen as a shoo-in for both the GOP nomination and the general election, so no risk there. Trump has also told Mooney that he will not endorse him in the primary, even though Mooney is Trumpy as hell, presumably because Trump expects Justice to win the primary. Similarly, Trump told Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), one of the Trumpiest members of the House, that he will not endorse him (presumably because Rosendale ran against Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, in 2018 and lost). Trump wants a winner here.

Not every Republican Senate candidate is falling over himself to endorse Trump, but many are. In Nevada, Jim Marchant has endorsed Trump but his primary opponent, Sam Brown, has not (yet). Still, Brown is the exception to the rule that Republican candidates must support Trump to survive. (V)

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