Trump signals he’s ready to get back in the game
An emboldened former President Trump is preparing to become more active as he looks to boost GOP allies while mulling a new run for the White House.
Trump is expected to hit the road soon resuming his signature rallies, which will put him more in the public eye and create questions for television networks about coverage.
He’s also set to hold his first fundraiser for his new super PAC at a time when his control over the GOP was augmented after House Republicans voted to dump Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from their leadership team over her repeated criticism of the former president’s false claims about his loss in the 2020 election.
“I think he feels good. I think he feels vindicated,” said one Trump ally, who said the developments make it more likely that Trump will be “aggressively on the playing field” stumping for GOP candidates in the coming months ahead of 2022.
Even GOP critics of Trump acknowledge that what happened to Cheney underscores the former president’s clout.
“That is a reflection of where the membership is and ultimately where the voters are. The Republican conference is a pretty accurate reflection of where the Republican base is,” said GOP strategist Doug Heye, who has criticized Trump in the past.
Heye described the GOP as “Trump’s party, with some divisions.”
Trump has spent most of his time since leaving the White House at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where Republican leaders regularly travel to meet with him, though he recently relocated to his Bedminster club in New Jersey.
With the exception of a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference and interviews with conservative media, Trump has remained largely out of public view and without his social media accounts to speak directly with his supporters.
Trump regularly blasts out email statements from his blog, something that is happening with increasing frequency.
The former president is eyeing rallies in June and July, an adviser confirmed, though no official announcements have been made. The New York Post first reported that two events were expected to take place in June and one in July.
Trump will also speak at the North Carolina GOP’s convention on June 5, a state with a competitive Senate race on the ballot next year.
Allies expect Trump to hit the campaign trail and stump for candidates he has endorsed as the 2022 midterm elections draw nearer. Trump has also leaned increasingly toward running for the White House again in 2024, which has frozen the field of would-be candidates given his standing in the party.
“The answer is I’m absolutely enthused. I look forward to doing an announcement at the right time,” Trump earlier in May told conservative personality Candace Owens when asked if he would launch a 2024 bid. “As you know, it’s very early. But I think people are going to be very, very happy when I make a certain announcement.”
While Trump’s presence could help buoy candidates given his popularity with the GOP base, it also poses a distinct challenge for Republicans given his repeated statements about last year’s election.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), after a meeting at the White House with President Biden and other congressional leaders, insisted nobody “is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.”
But in the days that followed, Trump issued multiple statements openly calling the 2020 result fraudulent and castigating former Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for not stepping in to reject Biden’s electoral victory.
While Trump’s social media ban has spared Republican lawmakers from responding to his every statement or inflammatory comment, the former president’s looming return to the spotlight could put vulnerable Senate candidates in a particular bind.
“Trump is going to increasingly look for opportunities to assert himself in the Senate now that he’s secured his hold over House Republicans,” said Dan Eberhart, a GOP fundraiser who criticized Trump’s rhetoric following the 2020 election.
“That means challenging McConnell on policy issues like immigration and climate and going after any incumbent he feels is insufficiently loyal to him,” Eberhart said. “That will make it extremely difficult for Republicans to navigate the Senate and negotiate with Democrats. Trump has a bullhorn he can use to mobilize a legion of angry voters who will besiege Senate offices with phone calls and emails.”
History suggests Republicans are poised to pick up the handful of House seats they need to retake the majority and could also regain a narrow majority in the Senate after the midterms.
While the enthusiasm among Trump’s base could aid GOP efforts to retake both chambers, some believe the former president’s increased presence could cut both ways.
“Republicans are going to want Biden and his agenda to be what the election is about, but the more that Donald Trump is out there … that means even with the diminishing attention that a former president gets that Trump will be an issue in the election,” said Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee. “For those close seats, that’s not what Republicans want to be talking about.”
One Democratic operative pointed to the 2018 midterms as proof that more Trump is not always a good thing for Republicans.
The then-president’s popularity within his party was sky-high, and Trump held multiple rallies each day. While Republicans maintained the Senate majority by picking up seats in a handful of red states, Democrats easily flipped control of the House.
“He keeps his base voters engaged, but he also keeps our voters engaged,” the Democrat said.
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