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What to do about Donald Trump if you're a mass Republican?

What to do about Donald Trump if you're a mass Republican?
What to do about Donald Trump if you're a mass Republican?

 


Local Republicans face a challenge this year: What to do with a twice-impeached former president who is seeking another term in the White House while facing criminal charges.

Talking about Donald Trump is a double-edged sword.

Supporting him could alienate Democrats and independents whom conservatives must win over to successfully beat their opponents, but pushing back against Trump could anger the right-wing voters who make up a candidate's base.

“Trump is a delicate dance for Massachusetts Republican candidates. Biden will likely beat Trump by a margin of two to one in the general election, so getting too attached to Trump could become an anchor around the candidates' necks,” said Rob Gray, a veteran political strategist who has worked on campaigns of former Governor Charlie. Baker and Mitt Romney.

Another option?

Political insiders are advising candidates this cycle to ignore or avoid talking about Trump and instead focus on hot-button issues affecting Massachusetts, like the price of housing for migrants in a sprawling network of hotels and state-funded motels or the exorbitant cost of housing.

Others are urging incumbents or candidates to make this election cycle an early referendum on Gov. Maura Healey's short tenure, which has already been marked by a number of crises that extend beyond the influx new arrivals.

Holly Robichaud, a Republican strategist involved in several campaigns this cycle, said candidates need to “run on the issues, not on coattails.” She pointed to Sen. Peter Durant's victory last year, in which he made the Healey administration's response to the arrival of migrants a central point of his campaign.

“This isn’t Indiana. This isn't Florida. This isn't South Carolina. Republican candidates need to show up on the issues so people know what they stand for and don’t expect wildfire,” she said. “They need to have a referendum on Maura Healey and they will win…Governor Haley has been uncommitted, undeliverable on her promise to make Massachusetts more affordable.”

A spokesperson for Healey's campaign declined to comment and referred the Herald to the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

“Voters understand that a vote for Republican candidates is a vote to bring Trumpism to Massachusetts, plain and simple,” MassDems President Steve Kerrigan said in a statement to the Herald this week.

Even if a Republican wanted to ride the coattails expected to hang from Trump's perch atop the November general election ticket, analysts predict it won't have much effect.

Costas Panagopoulos, chair of the political science department at Northeastern University, said that if the magnitude of Trump's negative effect in 2016 is any indicator, then the impact this year will be “very muted.”

“It all depends on how the election ultimately turns out and how big the margin of victory for whoever wins the election is,” he said in an interview. “When you have larger margins of victory, it tends to have larger tail effects. But the margins have been extremely small and narrowing over the past few election cycles and I hope that will be true in 2024.”

If Republicans decide to tie their campaign to Trump, focusing on the former president's stances on immigration could be most beneficial, said Thomas Whalen, an associate professor of social sciences at Boston University.

Whalen said the influx of migrants into Massachusetts and the cost of housing them in shelters resonates “especially among blue-collar, sort of working-class voters.”

“And especially at a time when the economy is strained due to inflation, they feel questioned: 'Why are we sending our tax dollars to help these people?' This is an issue that Trump has been pushing across the country and I think it will be a major issue this fall here in Massachusetts,” he said.

Trump's tightrope for Massachusetts Republicans becomes an even tougher act to balance for local candidates running for federal office like John Deaton or Ian Cain, the two conservatives vying to replace U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“It's even harder to avoid talking about Trump because you're going to be dealing with a federal issue, and it depends so much on who wins the next presidential election,” said Gray, who runs Gray Media Group. “The tap dancing that local Republican candidates have to dance becomes a walk on hot coals for Republican congressional candidates. »

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