Seven months after being voted out of office, former President Donald Trump remains the most influential figure in the Republican Party — much to the dismay of all the Never Trump conservatives who were hoping the GOP would abandon Trumpism after now-President Joe Biden's decisive victory in the 2020 election. Trump hasn't grown any less self-serving since leaving the White House, and in an article published by the National Journal on June 8, reporter Josh Kraushaar stresses that Trump's "erratic behavior" has the potential to hurt fellow Republicans in the 2022 midterms.
"Former President Trump could have been an important asset for the GOP, turning out voters as it seeks to regain control of Congress in next year's midterm elections," Kraushaar explains. "But out of office, he's continuing his destructive behavior, endorsing weaker candidates in contested primaries, squelching the campaigns of erstwhile allies, and elevating not-ready-for-prime-time contenders in must-win Senate contests."
Kraushaar continues, "His erratic behavior since losing the presidential election — exemplified by his conspiracy theorizing and suppression of the GOP vote in Georgia's Senate runoffs in January, handing Democrats the majority — is only accelerating as the midterms draw closer. It's leading to increasing Republican pessimism about their chances of retaking the Senate majority next year, even as the political environment is awfully favorable on paper to the party out of power."
The reporter notes that when Trump was in the White House, he was a "one-man turnout machine" in red states despite his "worst political impulses." But in the Biden era, according to Kraushaar, Trump is "showing little willingness to play ball with party leadership"
and has "picked his favorites with abandon, elevating a leading election denialist like Rep. Mo Brooks to front-runner status in Alabama, opposing party-backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, and urging a political novice like former NFL star Herschel Walker to run in a must-win Georgia contest."
A GOP senior strategist, quoted anonymously, told the Journal, "We can't let this guy pick our candidates if we want to be in the Senate majority."
One of the 2022 U.S. Senate races that Republicans are watching "nervously," according to Kraushaar, is the one in Missouri.
"Scandal-plagued former Gov. Eric Greitens has already hired top Trump campaign official — and Don Jr. girlfriend — Kimberly Guilfoyle as his campaign chair," Kraushaar observes. "Missouri is a reliably Republican state, but Greitens's baggage is so extensive that his nomination would potentially put the race in play."
How much Trump's endorsement will help or hurt the GOP in the 2022 midterms depends a lot on the state. Trump tends to endorse the most extreme far-right candidates in Republican primaries, which isn't a big problem in deep red states where Democrats seldom win statewide races. But it could be a major problem in blue states and swing states if the GOP is saddled with a Trump-approved far-right extremist in the general election.
"Trump is more interested in reshaping the party in his own image than in helping the GOP win back control of Congress," Kraushaar writes. "If Republicans aren't willing to fight for their own interests, they'll end up surrendering not just to Trump, but to Democratic control of the Senate."