Trump faces test of power with early endorsements

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE’s endorsements pose a test for him ahead of 2022 as he looks to flex his political muscle after leaving office.

The former president has thrown support behind conservative figures who have been particularly loyal to him, including Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksEx-Sen. Jones rips Mo Brooks over 'irony' remark on Texas Democrats getting COVID-19 Justice in legal knot in Mo Brooks, Trump case Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up MORE (R), who is running for Senate in Alabama, and former White House press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah SandersTrump expected to resume rallies in June Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor Trump appears at Sarah Huckabee Sanders campaign event MORE Sanders, who is running for governor of Arkansas.

Trump made his latest endorsements on Thursday, formally throwing his support behind one of his staunchest defenders, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines MORE (R-Wis.) — who has yet to formally announce whether he is running for reelection — as well as Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP Rep. Cawthorn says he wants to 'prosecute' Fauci Writer: Fauci, Paul clash shouldn't distract from probe into COVID-19 origins S.E. Cupp: 'The politicization of science and health safety has inarguably cost lives' MORE (R-Ky.). 

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But his endorsements could prove risky as he looks to cement his hold on a party that has splintered into competing factions ahead of the midterms.

“As they’re looking at candidates, they’re trying to reshape the Republican Party away from what a lot would call a corporatist approach and more towards this America First approach,” said former Trump administration official Alexei Woltornist.

Despite losing his reelection battle in November, Trump continues to be seen as a leading figure within the party. 

A Reuters-Ipsos survey conducted late last month showed 81 percent of Republicans expressing a favorable opinion of Trump, while 49 percent said they strongly disagreed with the view that the former president should not run for public office again.

Trump’s Save America PAC is also gaining steam ahead of the midterms, collecting a whopping $85 million in cash on hand last quarter. Trump has been a constant presence in conservative media, making a number of appearances on outlets like Fox News and Newsmax.

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Many Republican candidates have taken note of Trump’s continued influence in the party as they launch their own bids.

The former president has already rolled out a number of endorsements in races across the country this year. In March, he formally endorsed South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), Idaho Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoHow Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform Lobbying world On The Money: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration | IRS scandals haunt Biden push for more funding MORE (R) and Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim GriffinJohn (Tim) Timothy GriffinTrump faces test of power with early endorsements Trump announces new tranche of endorsements The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending MORE (R), who is running to be his state’s attorney general. Trump has also endorsed in lower-level races, including backing South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick in his reelection bid.

“Every candidate that I’ve talked to, the first thing they say is, how do I get Trump to endorse me?” Woltornist said. “To them, a Trump endorsement is the golden ticket.”

Not all Republicans put as much stock into the former president’s influence. Trump notably endorsed then-Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangePandemic proves importance of pharmaceutical innovation The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Trump faces test of power with early endorsements MORE in the Alabama GOP Senate primary runoff in 2017, only to see Strange lose to the controversial former Judge Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoy Moore loses lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen Shelby backs ex-aide over Trump-favored candidate in Alabama Senate race Of inmates and asylums: Today's House Republicans make the John Birchers look quaint MORE. Moore lost the general election, giving Democrats a Senate seat for two years in the deep-red state.

“Trump is the biggest endorsement any person can get, obviously, but it’s still not a golden ticket,” said GOP strategist Doug Heye. “I think folks are kind of mindful of that.”

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Some Trump critics within the Republican Party have sought to boost candidates who have run afoul of the former president, reflecting the growing schism within the GOP.

Former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi Stripping opportunity from DC's children Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (R-Ohio), who has been especially vocal with his criticism of the Trump wing of the party, threw his support behind incumbent Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezSix takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Pro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising Governors' races see flood of pro-Trump candidates MORE (R-Ohio), who voted to impeach Trump, according to Politico. Gonzalez is facing a primary challenge from former White House aide Max Miller, whom Trump has endorsed.

Another former Speaker, Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Cutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis MORE (R-Wis.), reportedly held a virtual fundraiser for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyTrump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios House rejects GOP effort to seat McCarthy's picks for Jan. 6 panel GOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Wyo.) in March after she drew scorn from Trump supporters in Congress for also voting to impeach the former president. Cheney is facing a primary challenge from pro-Trump state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R), though the Trump has not officially endorsed anyone in the race yet.

Other races Trump has yet to endorse in include the Republican gubernatorial convention in Virginia, where most of the candidates in the field have tied themselves closely to the former president.

Some argue that Trump is unlikely to get heavily involved in that race because the state has been increasingly seen as a Democratic stronghold. Others say it’s too early to tell who will come out on top in the race, which will be decided on May 8.

“It’s not clear at this juncture who the best candidate is,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “It’s going to be a race that is won and lost on issues that are particularly specific to the commonwealth of Virginia.”

Trump’s endorsements have reflected the candidate's loyalty to him. While the president has rewarded his staunchest supporters, he has threatened to back primary challengers against sitting lawmakers and officials.

The former president notably endorsed Rep. Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceGeorgia secretary of state calls for Fulton County elections officials to be fired One-third of GOP candidates have embraced Trump election claims: report House Democrat: Republicans 'treating Capitol Police like shit' were 'the most scared' during riot MORE (R-Ga.) in his primary challenge against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) following a months-long feud with Raffensperger and other senior Georgia Republicans over election fraud claims.

“He’s making it known that it’s time to make some changes in Georgia,” O’Connell said of Trump. “I promise you, the [Republican] grassroots are going to agree with that.”

In Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, Trump’s endorsement did not appear to help Republican Christina Hagan in her race against incumbent Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanSix takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (D) in 2020. Hagan lost by roughly 8 points.

But Trump’s endorsement in other 2020 races helped boost Republican candidates in the House and the Senate who were considered highly vulnerable. Incumbent Republican Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden DACA court ruling puts weight of immigration reform on Democrats Senate braces for a nasty debt ceiling fight MORE (S.C.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund MORE (Iowa) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSenate committee advances bipartisan energy infrastructure bill  Hillicon Valley: Lina Khan faces major FTC test | Amazon calls for her recusal | Warren taps commodities watchdog to probe Google Senators propose bill to help private sector defend against hackers MORE (Mont.) were at one point thought to be prime targets for Democrats, but ultimately held on to their seats. Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans managed to pick up seats, thereby shrinking the Democratic majority. 

“It’s more likely that it’s going to be a race-by-race situation,” Heye said. “Different states and different campaigns react to things differently.”