Not all GOP candidates want Trump to stump
He is the Republican Party’s most powerful political weapon. Yet as the GOP fights to defend its delicate House and Senate majorities, President Donald Trump is not welcome everywhere.
Some Republican candidates fear that the unscripted and relatively unpopular president could do more harm than good should he campaign on their behalf. Leading party strategists want Trump to focus his time and energy on a handful of Senate contests in deep-red states where Democratic incumbents are particularly vulnerable. In swing states – especially across America’s suburbs, where the House majority will be decided – some would prefer that he stay away.
“I would like the president to do his job, and I’ll do mine,” Dan David, a Republican congressional hopeful fighting to preserve a GOP-held seat in suburban Philadelphia, said when asked if he’d like Trump to visit his district.
“I win or lose on my team’s merits,” David said. “I think that the president has a very, very full plate with foreign affairs and special prosecutor investigations.”
This aversion to Trump is something the White House needs to take into account as it decides how best to deploy the president in the months leading up to the November midterm elections. But it’s unclear how much Trump will heed strategists’ guidance, or candidates’ wishes, as he picks his targets.
The current White House strategy calls for Trump to focus on fundraising and campaigning in states key to control of the Senate, including Indiana, Montana, Tennessee, North Dakota, Missouri, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to a person familiar with the president’s strategy who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.
Vice President Mike Pence will be heavily involved in the Senate effort and also in House races, especially in rural areas that are more difficult for the president to reach.
Closer to Election Day, Trump is expected to shift his attention to rallies designed to bolster get-out-the-vote efforts.
Next on Trump’s schedule: a trip to Tennessee later this month for a Nashville rally and a fundraiser in support of Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign.
The White House’s political team has a close relationship with most of the top Republican Senate campaigns, regularly sharing details on policy announcements and messaging. But Trump’s travel decisions, so far at least, have been decided by the White House with little input from the Republican candidates on the ground.
Friends and foes alike acknowledge that in some parts of the country Trump can be extraordinarily effective by energizing his supporters. In others, his efforts have the potential to backfire by motivating Democrats or repelling skeptical independents and suburban Republicans.