On Wednesday, writing for FiveThirtyEight, Mackenzie Wilkes and Nathaniel Rakich broke down the ways in which former President Donald Trump's endorsements in Republican primaries has shifted since he left office.
"Now that Trump is no longer president ... one of the big questions of the 2022 midterms is what degree of influence he still wields within his party," said the report. "We won’t really know the answer to that question until next year’s elections get going in earnest. But one thing we already know is that Trump’s endorsement strategy looks pretty different from when he was in office."
The three key differences, Wilkes and Rakich argued, are that Trump's endorsements are "earlier, bolder, and more dangerous." He is making these endorsements sooner in the election process, as he did with Rep. Ted Budd in the North Carolina Senate race; he is more willing to endorse challengers to Republican incumbents if he perceives the incumbents as disloyal to him, as he did with former Sen. David Perdue in his primary challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp; and he is endorsing candidates in more obscure races that could have power to shape the elections process, as he is doing for several secretary of state candidates who are endorsing his "Big Lie."
"Taken together, Trump’s endorsements so far paint a picture of an ex-president who is eager to maintain his influence within his party — perhaps even paving the way for the (possibly illegitimate) continuation of his own political career," they concluded. "By endorsing early, he’s trying to fill a power vacuum at the head of the GOP caused by his own loss in the 2020 election. And by endorsing in more competitive races, he’s also taking a more active role in ensuring that the direction of the Republican Party remains a Trumpy one. Finally, by trying to replace his critics with those who support the Big Lie, he is trying to create a scenario where a Republican-controlled state government or Congress might refuse to certify a Democratic victory in the 2024 election, potentially returning him to the White House despite losing the election."