Donald Trump has shown an unusual interest for an ex-president in down-ballot races around the country -- often at odds with the Republican Party he continues to dominate.
The twice-impeached one-term president has endorsed seemingly random candidates in primary elections for state senate, secretary of state and even Staten Island borough president, but they all have have some type of link to his failed efforts to overturn his own 2020 election loss, reported Politico.
"Donald Trump is continuing to add to the chaos in the Republican Party [and] it's confusing the average Republican voter," said Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican critic who is not seeking re-election. "The only question that seems to matter when Trump is making his endorsements is: 'Are you with us on the election conspiracy stuff?' Not, 'Do you believe in smaller government? Do you support law enforcement? Do you believe in lower regulations?' Instead, it's, 'Are you with me?'"
Trump has endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon conspiracist and "Stop the Steal" participant, for Arizona secretary of state and Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) against Georgia's incumbent secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who refused to help overturn his loss there, and he's also backing Georgia state Sen. Burt Jones, who asked Gov. Brian Kemp to call an emergency special session to overturn the state's election results, in the open GOP primary for lieutenant governor.
"[Trump's] early picks clearly come with a tinge of revenge," said John Sellek, a Michigan-based GOP consultant. "How the primaries turn out is still up in the air, due to redistricting and how the races evolve. But his impact on nominations decided at the state GOP convention is likely total and complete. We should expect more endorsements to come."
The former president has made so many endorsements in so many races that it's impossible to tell how much of an effect his backing will actually have, but the pattern is clear.
"Obviously, Trump is a score-settler," said Rep. Ryan Costello, a GOP critic who is considering a bid for Pennsylvania's open Senate seat. "Is Trump a kingmaker in a Republican primary? In many cases, yes. In a safe Republican seat, you'll have a certain type of candidate he endorses who will win. But in swing seats, you could have a Trump candidate win the primary and lose the general because Trump is so toxic. That doesn't bother Trump. But it's a problem when we want to win more seats in the midterm."