By Joseph Hacha
(Reuters) – Donald Trump’s ongoing effort to play Republican Kingmaker faces new tests on Tuesday as voters in five states choose candidates in high-profile races for U.S. Congress, governor and other positions before of the November midterm elections.
In Arizona and Michigan, candidates who have embraced the former president’s false claims of voter fraud could win the Republican nominations for governor, even as some in their party fear they could be too extreme to win on Nov. 8.
Kansas voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to allow the Republican-controlled legislature to ban or limit abortion, the first such ballot initiative since the US Supreme Court struck down abortion rights nationwide. country in June.
Two U.S. Republican representatives who voted to impeach Trump after his supporters stormed Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, Peter Meijer of Michigan and Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington, are also facing major Trump-backed challengers.
On Monday, Meijer published an op-ed criticizing Democrats for running ads to boost his far-right opponent after warning such candidates are dangerous, part of a brinkmanship to improve Democrats’ chances of victory. Democrats in November.
With an economy teetering on the brink of recession and inflation on the rise, just 37% of Americans approve of President Joe Biden’s job performance. That weighs on Democrats heading into the general election in November, when Republicans are the favorites to win control of the House and perhaps the Senate.
Control of either chamber would give Republicans the power to stymie Biden’s legislative agenda while launching politically damaging hearings.
Democrats have also suffered a series of political defeats by the strongly conservative Supreme Court, particularly on abortion, which they could not stop even with control of Congress and the White House.
As he continues to publicly flirt with the possibility of running for president again in 2024, Trump has endorsed more than 100 candidates in this year’s election. Most are safe bets (incumbent Republicans in conservative districts), but even in competitive races he has had a winning record.
Trump-backed nominees have won Republican primaries for the US Senate in Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio, though their picks lost nominating races for governor of Georgia and for the US House of Representatives. USA in South Carolina.
“Trump remains very popular with Republican primary voters. I don’t think you can underestimate how he has rebuilt the party in his image,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist. “Republicans running against Trump tend to get trampled.”
On Tuesday, Arizona voters will choose between Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson, who is endorsed by former Trump Vice President Mike Pence.
Lake, a former news anchor, echoes Trump’s false claims that his 2020 election loss was the result of fraud and has said she would not have certified Biden’s 2020 state victory. campaign, Lake claimed without evidence that fraud had already taken place. during early voting, suggesting he may not accept defeat on Tuesday.
The race for secretary of state, the state’s top election official, also includes a Trump-backed candidate, state Rep. Mark Finchem. Finchem, who was present at Trump’s January 6, 2021 speech in Washington that preceded the attack on the US Capitol, wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “Trump won,” leading to a Democratic candidate, Adrian Fontes, to call him a “traitor”.
Arizona Republicans will also pick a challenger to face Democratic US Senator Mark Kelly, seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents.
Blake Masters, a former tech executive who has endorsed Trump’s false fraud claims, has Trump’s backing and the backing of tech billionaire Peter Thiel. He leads the polls against Jim Lamon, a former power company executive, and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whom Trump blames for failing to reverse Biden’s 2020 state victory.
Chuck Coughlin, a veteran Republican strategist in Arizona, said “there’s no question” that candidates like Lake and Finchem will have a harder time winning in November.
His firm conducted a recent poll that found two-thirds of Republican voters mistakenly believe the 2020 election had serious integrity issues, but the broader electorate will look quite different, he said.
“To win a statewide election in Arizona, you have to win unaffiliated voters,” he said. “Those people don’t like Trump.”
In Missouri, former Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned amid sexual assault and campaign finance fraud scandals, is seeking the Republican nomination for the US Senate despite calls from many within his party to withdraw out of fear. that it could cost Republicans a safe seat. in November.
Having promised to back that race, Trump on Monday recommended voters choose Greitens or one of his rivals, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, with a statement that simply endorsed “Eric.”
In Michigan, a chaotic Republican gubernatorial campaign will come to an end, with several candidates vying for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who became a frequent target for conservatives after her aggressive approach to shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Trump endorsed former Republican commentator Tudor Dixon in the race. But at a rally this weekend in Troy, some Trump supporters of one of Dixon’s rivals, businessman Kevin Rinke, said they would not be swayed.
One attendee, Steve Moshelli, 57, said he voted for Trump twice but stuck with Rinke.
“Honestly, I think his star is fading,” Moshelli, a businessman from Royal Oak, Michigan, said of Trump, adding that he thought the Jan. 6 committee hearings had undermined Trump’s power. “It’s his credibility. He’s starting to fade.”
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey, additional reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington and Nathan Layne in Troy, Michigan; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)