'Not a foregone conclusion:' Republicans confront limits of Trump's endorsement

Adam Wollner, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

“I don’t think he’s strong enough to elevate someone who would have lost without him,” said Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. “It’s not that he’s going away and fading into irrelevance. But I don’t think he is viewed as strongly as when he was in office.”

Republicans say that Wright benefited from Trump’s endorsement ahead of the May 1 all-party primary, helping her to stand out in a 23-candidate field. But they add that Trump’s support would have carried greater weight in the head-to-head July 27 election if he would have campaigned more aggressively on Wright’s behalf.

For instance, Trump held rallies in Ohio and Florida and spoke at the North Carolina Republican Party convention this year, events where he plugged some of his favored candidates.

“This result shows Trump must be all-in with endorsements. He didn’t raise money or show up in the district,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican strategist. “A half-hearted endorsement can be overcome.”

Some Republicans also argue that because GOP candidates running in open primaries this election cycle are likely to be staunch supporters of Trump, his endorsement may not end up serving as a deciding factor for voters.

In an interview with a local Texas radio station after the election, Ellzey said the notion that the result was a rebuke of Trump was “nonsense.”


“The president is still exceptionally popular in this district,” Ellzey said.

Even before the Texas election results came in, there were signs that Trump’s support didn’t automatically lead to campaign success.

Republican candidates running for open U.S. Senate seats in Alabama and North Carolina have not been scared off by Trump’s early endorsements, with both races drawing crowded primary fields. Trump’s preferred candidates in those contests — Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd — raised less campaign cash than one of their opponents in the second quarter of the year.

And Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in the impeachment trial earlier this year and is up for re-election in 2022, outraised Trump-backed Republican Kelly Tshibaka.


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