Georgia runoff highlights GOP worries about Trump — and excitement around DeSantis


Herschel Walker won the upcoming runoff election against the incumbent Democratic senator. Several Republicans said Rafael Warnock would likely rely on GOP luminaries flocking to Georgia between now and Dec. 6.

Many were confused about whether that should include former President Donald Trump, whose status as a mainstay of the party came under fresh scrutiny amid lackluster midterm results for Republicans.

“The first question I’ve gotten since Tuesday night is, ‘Is Trump going to screw things up?'” said Eric Trump, a prominent Georgia conservative radio host supporting Trump’s 2020 re-election bid. Erick Erickson said.

Although the former president helped recruit Walker, the Georgia football legend and longtime Trump pal, to the Senate race last year, it was eventually suggested he campaign elsewhere during the general election, two people familiar with the matter told CNN. Some Republicans remained uneasy about Trump’s appearance in Georgia, which led to two runoff elections in 2021 in which Democrats won two seats and took control of the Senate. At the time, then-President Trump filled his campaign speeches with false claims that voter fraud was rampant in Georgia and that Republican officials were working against him.

Allies of Walker worry that Trump’s appearance before the midterm elections will turn off independents and suburban women, key voting blocs in battleground states. Those concerns remained after neither Walker nor Warnock received more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, as Walker now enters a runoff.

Some Georgia Republicans said Trump’s decision to go ahead with his expected 2024 campaign next week would be a distraction from what is most important to every Republican right now — helping the party secure a Senate majority. Trump aides extended invitations late Thursday to a Nov. 15 event at Mar-a-Lago, which the former president hopes will dent the momentum behind Ron DeSantis, who is popular Florida’s governor and potential presidential primary contender was re-elected this week.

Indeed, while the debate rages on over whether Trump should run for Walker in the coming days, several Republicans said they would eagerly welcome DeSantis’ presence.

“We need every Republican surrogate we can get into the state to embrace Herschel. I agree [Virginia Gov. Glenn] Youngkin or DeSantis are better suited to moderate Republicans or independents in the suburbs,” said Ralph Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Reade later noted that he believed Trump could also help boost turnout among rural Georgia voters, though he warned he was “not speaking for the electorate.” [Walker] Activity. ”

“I’ll let them work that out,” he said.

Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise did not respond to a request for comment.

A person close to Walker’s campaign said DeSantis “would be a huge draw if we could get him,” noting that the Florida governor is not running for Georgia’s governor. Brian Kemp has recently campaigned for candidates in New York, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania despite just crossing the border. Kemp won his own re-election bid on Tuesday, defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams for the second time. The Georgia governor has told allies he wants to help Walker in any way he can, including campaigning for him, according to a person with knowledge of the conversations.

“DeSantis will help. Youngkin will help. Kemp will help. I think those are the biggest draws for Georgia,” Eriksson said.

Whether DeSantis would be interested in running for Walker “depends on what happens in the remaining two races” in Arizona and Nevada, a Republican with knowledge of DeSantis’ political operations said. Both races are still close, but if the Republicans win one of those races, control of the upper house would fall to Georgia.

“That’s when it became the center of the political universe,” this person said.

A spokesman for DeSantis did not respond to a request for comment on his future travel plans. While DeSantis has backed Republicans on tough battlegrounds and campaigned for controversial candidates such as Arizona’s Carrillake and Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastroiano, during the midterms he has No such effort was made to help Walker, as headlines continued to pour in over the former Heisman Trophy winner’s turbulent past and personal troubles.

DeSantis — whose Tallahassee executive mansion is 20 miles from the Florida-Georgia border — also did not take part in Republican battles in the Peach State two years ago, as Republicans ultimately lost two Senate decisions. select.

But a Republican fundraiser close to DeSantis said the Florida governor may cross the border if he believes he can help Walker. “He’s a Republican leader who wants Republicans to take control of the Senate,” the fundraiser said.

But if DeSantis shows up in Georgia, Trump allies say it will be exponentially more difficult to persuade the former president himself to stay away from the state. To the dismay of those who hoped for an undisturbed environment for Walker, Trump has continued to abuse DeSantis in recent days, lashing out at the Florida governor in a statement Thursday, calling him a “An ordinary Republican governor” who lacked “loyalty and class” refused to rule out his own bid for the White House.

Those attacks could intensify if the Florida Republican campaigns for Walker, a person close to Trump said.

“imagine [Trump] Saw Ron campaigning for Herschel while being told “please stay away”. He’s going to lose his temper,” the person said.

One idea would be for the former president to help Walker financially with a generous check, said a Trump aide who requested anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations. Trump’s MAGA Inc. Super PACs gave the candidate $16.4 million in the final weeks of the 2022 cycle, while he was sitting on more than $100 million in fundraising committees at the end of September, according to federal election data.

“He’s looking at how he can salvage this moment, and one of the ways he’s doing that is by helping Walker win,” one of Trump’s advisers said, referring to Tuesday’s lackluster Republican results and Mohammad Oz’s victory in Pennsylvania. A crushing defeat for the state, whom Trump supported in the Republican Senate primary.

“But I don’t think it’s possible for him to declare a run for president and not run for Walker,” the person added, adding that Trump’s absence of Georgia, the presumptive frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, shows his concern for vulnerable groups. Responsible Republicans – Toxic message at the start of the presidential campaign.

Michael Caputo, a Trump 2016 campaign aide who remains close to the former president, said Trump should raise as much money as possible for Walker because the presidential announcement could Leading to a surge in Democratic donations to Warnock.

“You have to offset that on the Walker side. In my opinion, the best thing Trump can do is donate to Herschel and raise a lot of money because he can,” Caputo said.

Trump’s political team has held discussions on how best to help Walker since it became apparent that the Georgia Senate race was heading into a runoff, according to two sources familiar with the matter, both of whom said no firm decision had been made.

Trump spokeswoman Tyler Budovich said in a statement to CNN: “With the support of President Trump, who is 220-16 in the contest that has been announced, Herschel Walker has a good chance of winning after forcing a tiebreaker.” .

Much of the sensitivity surrounding Trump’s visit to Georgia stems from his campaign appearances for the former Republican senator. Two years ago, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were both fighting for their own runoff bids.

On the eve of the 2021 runoff, Trump blasted Republican officials statewide for refusing to challenge Georgia’s 2020 election results, falsely claiming he won the state and promising to return to the race when Kemp runs for re-election. The Republican incumbent ran for president, a goal Trump later achieved by recruiting Perdue to challenge Kemp in the primary.

Republicans back in Washington watched the rally in horror, deeply worried that Trump’s intense focus on election fraud and various attacks on Republican officials across the state would drive down the vote of his core supporters the next day Rate. In the end, both Loeffler and Perdue lost the runoffs, and Warnock and Jon Ossoff jumped into the Senate, giving Democrats a slim majority.

The episode haunts Trump again, as Republicans could face the same scenario as in 2021, with Georgia taking control of the Senate if Democratic senators back it. Mark Kelly won re-election in Arizona, and Republican Adam Laxot ousted the incumbent Democratic senator. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. Laxot currently leads by a narrow margin, according to Friday morning’s tally, while Kelly leads his Republican challenger by more than 100,000 votes. Less worried about him sending a message of depressing turnout, Republicans’ main concern this time around is that Trump will end up dragging Walker in what was once a deep red, now trending purple, and that the polarizing former president could distance himself from exactly that. Voters Walker needs to win.

“Herschel needs to do a better job among suburban Kemp voters and independents,” Reid said. “About 5% of voters who go to Kemp don’t go to Herschel, he needs at least 1 in every 4 voters.”

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