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ICYMI: After Criticizing Trump, GOP Senate Candidates Now Desperate For His Endorsement [HuffPost]

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HuffPost: After Criticizing Trump, GOP Senate Candidates Now Desperate For His Endorsement
By Kevin Robillard and Daniel Marans
June 15, 2021

Key Points: 

  • Leading GOP candidates for Senate seats across the country who once harshly criticized Donald Trump are now jockeying for his endorsement, a display of the former president’s near-total grip over the Republican primary electorate.
  • The candidates include leading contenders for open seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina and a top-tier potential challenger to an incumbent Democrat in New Hampshire. All are likely to see GOP rivals weaponize their past comments to damage them in the eyes of Trump himself, allies who could influence him and Republican primary voters who overwhelmingly approve of the former president.
  • “Across the Senate map, Trump is escalating GOP primaries and making the Republican infighting even worse,” said David Bergstein, the communications director for Senate Democrats’ campaign arm. “In each race GOP Senate candidates are fighting with each other over who can suck up to Trump the most ― and whomever emerges from these intraparty fights will enter the general election badly damaged and out of step with the voters who will decide the race in their state.”
  • Some of the comments are harsh: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, arguably the party’s top Senate recruiting priority, said it was “clear” Trump’s deserved blame for violence on Jan. 6. Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory suggested Trump was “destroying democracy” with his false allegations of voter fraud following his 2020 loss.
  • Other criticisms date back to the 2016 election: Then, venture capitalist and likely Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance said Trump was “unfit” for the presidency, and Pennsylvania candidate Sean Parnell said he was not surprised Trump would not disavow an endorsement from a Ku Klux Klan leader. 
  • A vivid illustration of the potential risks happened earlier this month, when Trump endorsed Rep. Ted Budd over McCrory at the North Carolina GOP convention […] One Republican closely watching the race said other Republicans in the state opposed to McCrory’s nomination had worked to highlight the comments (which were featured in a CNN article earlier this year) to Trump allies.
  • Sununu said in 2016 it was “foolish” to say the president defines the GOP, and later said much of the president’s rhetoric was “disgusting” and “intolerable.”
  • Trump has attacked [Brnovich] in the past for not more aggressively supporting GOP lies about voting fraud.
  • In the Ohio race to replace GOP Sen. Rob Portman […] [J.D. Vance] is already on the receiving end of an anonymous text-message campaign informing Republican voters in Ohio about Vance’s numerous disparaging comments about Trump during the 2016 race, including a time he called Trump an “idiot.” […] Mandel, who was state treasurer from 2010 to 2018, has gone after Timken for refusing, as party chair, to censure Rep. Anthony Gonzalez for voting to impeach Trump in January.
  • Sean Parnell, an Army veteran who lost a close race to Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania in 2020, was harshly critical of Trump during the 2016 primaries. As Pittsburgh City Paper reported earlier this month, Parnell called on Trump to release his tax returns and repeatedly expressed dismay at his rhetoric […] Jeff Bartos, a businessman running against Parnell for the GOP nomination, released digital ads declaring Parnell “sided with liberals” by asking Trump to release his taxes. 

See also: The Hill: Past criticism of Trump becomes potent weapon in GOP primaries; Roll Call: Trump could shake up key Senate races with endorsements; National Journal: Trump is sabotaging the GOP’s Senate prospects; Axios: Pro-McConnell PAC prepared to intervene in 2022 primaries; CNN Analysis: Mitch McConnell was asked about Trump and 2022. His answer is hilarious; Charlotte Observer (Opinion): Donald Trump just threw NC’s U.S. Senate race into chaos. Democrats should be delighted

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