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Trump pulls strings behind the scenes to help loyal 2022 candidates

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By Alex Rogers and Gabby Orr, CNN

Former President Donald Trump has taken his involvement in the 2022 Republican primaries to a new level as he strives to continuously shape the GOP in his image. Beyond Trump’s public efforts to oust incumbent Republican candidates he sees as disloyal, he has quietly tried to eliminate potential GOP threats against his approved candidates and encouraged others to run against his enemies.

Earlier this month, the former president enlisted the help of North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn in persuading former Rep. Mark Walker to end his campaign for the Senate and run for the House, this who could help Trump’s preferred candidate for the GOP Senate Primary, Rep. Ted Budd, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump has also had conversations in recent weeks with MAGA-aligned Republicans who plan to challenge GOP governors with whom he has become disillusioned. The former president urged former Georgian Senator David Perdue to run against outgoing Governor Brian Kemp, who has resisted Trump’s efforts to undo his narrow 2020 loss in the state for then-candidate Joe Biden. And he’s been receptive to the prospect of GOP Alabama Senate candidate Lynda Blanchard challenging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.

The notoriously vengeful former president told his associates he blamed Ivey for a decision by the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park Commission earlier this summer to prevent him from holding a July 3 rally aboard the battleship at retirement from WWII.

Ex-presidents generally leave the spotlight after leaving office, refraining from entering their party’s primaries. But someone close to Trump compared the former president to Mafia patriarch Vito Corleone in the movie “The Godfather” for his retaliatory efforts against Republicans who criticized him for inciting the Jan. 6 insurgency in Canada. Capitol or for voting to pass Biden’s $ 1.2 trillion. infrastructure plan. Trump “pulled the strings behind the scenes and guided the candidates in the right direction,” the person said.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said the former president’s endorsement “is arguably the most powerful force in American politics” and that Trump continues to receive requests for endorsement from Republican candidates up and down the ballot. “When he supports candidates, they win,” Budowich told CNN in a statement, while declining to comment on Trump’s conversations with individual or potential candidates.

Seat of the United States Senate in North Carolina

Cawthorn, a 26-year-old congressman who has positioned himself as Trump’s sidekick on Capitol Hill, endorsed Walker’s Senate campaign in February, four months before Trump surprised attendees at Caroline’s GOP convention of the North with the approval of Representative Ted Budd.

But at Trump’s request, Cawthorn recently called Walker to urge him to run for the House rather than continue to challenge Budd in the GOP Senate Primary, according to people familiar with the matter. Recent polls have shown Walker is dragging Budd and former Gov. Pat McCrory, another GOP Senate candidate, and Budd supporters believe he could win over McCrory if he doesn’t have to divide the vote with Walker.

Budd gained Trump’s approval after he voted against Congressional certification of the 2020 elections Jan.6-7 and supported a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to challenge the swing states results lost by Trump. (This case was dismissed by the Supreme Court, which ruled that Texas did not have standing to prosecute.)

Walker, who declined multiple requests for comment, is now considering running for the House, according to people familiar with his thinking. The North Carolina filing deadline is next month.

Georgia Governor’s Race

In Georgia, the former president is reportedly focused on creating a “Trump ticket,” according to a GOP agent, with approved candidates running for governor, senatorial and other public office. Trump has previously backed former Senate running back Herschel Walker against Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and other GOP candidates, and Representative Jody Hice against Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has refuted Trump’s allegations of widespread fraud after the 2020 election.

Perdue lost her Senate seat to Democrat Jon Ossoff in a runoff earlier this year. But he is now considering a gubernatorial bid against Kemp, even though some of his former supporters believe an expensive primary could hurt the party ahead of a possible 2022 clash against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Perdue’s allies, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have argued that the former senator is the only Republican able to unite the party since Trump lambasted Kemp, saying in September that Abrams “could very well be better “than the Republican governor. Trump assured Perdue he would back the former senator in a primary race against Kemp, according to people familiar with the matter. Budowich declined to discuss Trump’s “private conversations” with current or potential candidates.

Alabama Governor’s Race

And in Alabama, Trump has already backed Representative Mo Brooks, a fierce ally who told Trump supporters ahead of the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6: “Today is the day American patriots begin to take action. names and to kick ass. “

Despite Trump’s early support for Brooks, the Alabama congressman suffered from lackluster fundraising and waning momentum in the Senate GOP primary, which the former president noticed. Trump was not only annoyed when Brooks was booed at a rally he organized with him this summer, but recently complained about Brooks’ campaign to allies, according to three people familiar with the situation.

To make matters worse for Brooks, Katie Britt, the former president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, beat Brooks in fundraising, garnered support from the party-wing chamber of commerce and received approval. from her former boss, retired GOP Senator Richard Shelby, whose seat she, Brooks and Blanchard are seeking. If Blanchard, the former ambassador of First Lady Melania Trump’s native Slovenia, leaves the Senate race to challenge Ivey, she could help Brooks unite Trump supporters and overcome the threat posed by Britt.

Last month Blanchard met Trump at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. In a statement, she neither confirmed nor denied that they had discussed a possible candidacy for governor.

“It was an honor for me to be appointed by President Trump to serve as Ambassador and I will continue to support the President and his America First program,” Blanchard said. “Our recent visit to Mar-a-Lago was a lot of fun and we can’t wait to do it again soon.”

Republicans are gearing up for next year

The sharp rise in consumer prices, recent supply chain shortages, and the weakening approval rating of Biden left Republicans confident they would win back both the House and the Senate in the election of midterm next year.

But some strategists fear that Trump’s desire to challenge the 2020 election will force the party to bring up candidates who look back and embrace its dangerous falsehoods, rather than focusing on the more pressing issues facing it. voters in the 2022 midterm elections.

His choices may put him at odds with the official party organizations devoted to conquering the residences of governors, the House and the Senate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee do not support Republican candidates in open primaries, and the Republican Governors Association supports incumbent candidates like Kemp.

“Republicans have a historic opportunity in 2022: Biden’s presidency crumbles, generic numbers have never been higher compared to Democrats, and (GOP House Leader Kevin) McCarthy and (House Leader) Senate GOP Mitch) McConnell recruit good candidates, ”said longtime GOP strategist Scott Reed. “But you know, Trump keeps looking in the rearview mirror.”

In at least two instances, Trump’s approvals have already caused a headache for party officials hoping to take over the Senate. Pennsylvania Senate candidate Sean Parnell, who received Trump’s backing in September, suspended his campaign this week after a judge granted Laurie Snell, his ex-wife, primary physical custody and sole legal custody of the couple’s three children amid accusations that Parnell was physically abusive towards her and their children. And in Georgia, Walker, the Trump-backed Senate candidate, has faced allegations of domestic violence from his ex-wife, ex-girlfriend and third wife. Walker and Parnell have strongly denied the allegations against them.

Budowich said Parnell spoke to Trump on Monday to brief him on his plans.

“#PASen remains a top priority for the meadows. Trump and the MAGA card of 22 rallying our movement to America 1st’s top candidate remain essential, ”Budowich tweeted.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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