Georgia runoff highlights GOP worries about Trump — and excitement around DeSantis


Herschel Walker succeeds in the upcoming runoff against the incumbent Democratic senator. Several Republicans said Rafael Warnock could be relying on Republican celebrities flocking to Georgia between now and Dec. 6.

Many are uneasy about whether this should include former President Donald Trump, whose status as a pillar of the party is being re-examined amid disappointing midterm results for Republicans.

“The first question I got from Tuesday night was, ‘Will Trump screw this up?'” Eric Georgia, a prominent conservative radio host who backed Trump’s 2020 re-election bid Erick Erickson said.

Although the former president helped recruit Georgia football legend and longtime Trump family friend Walker to the Senate race last year, he was ultimately advised to run elsewhere during the general election, two people familiar with the matter told CNN. . Some Republicans remain troubled by Trump’s appearance in Georgia, which led to two runoff races in 2021 that ended with Democrats winning two seats and gaining control of the Senate. At the time, then-President Trump spread false claims in his campaign speeches that voter fraud was rampant in Georgia and that Republican officials had worked against him.

Walker’s allies fear that Trump’s pre-midterm appearances will shut down independents and suburban women, a key voting bloc in battleground states. Those concerns persisted after neither Walker nor Warnock received more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, as Walker is now in the runoff period.

Some Georgia Republicans say Trump’s decision to run his expected 2024 campaign next week will distract from what is most important to every Republican right now — helping the party secure a Senate majority. Trump aides sent out an invitation Thursday night to a Nov. 15 event at Mar-a-Lago, which the former president hopes will dent the momentum behind Ron DeSantis, who A popular Florida governor and potential presidential primary rival is on track for re-election this week.

In fact, while there is a debate over whether Trump should run for Walker’s campaign in the coming days, some Republicans say they will eagerly welcome DeSantis’ appearance.

“We need every Republican surrogate who can get into the state to support Herschel. I agree [Virginia Gov. Glenn] Youngkin or DeSantis are better for soft Republicans or suburban independents, and we need to switch out,” said Ralph Reed, president of the Alliance for Faith and Freedom.

Reid later noted that he believed Trump was also helping to boost voter turnout in rural Georgia, though he warned that he was “not trying to help”. [Walker] Activity. ”

“I’ll let them fix this,” he said.

Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise did not respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis “would be a huge draw if we could get him,” said a person close to Walker’s campaign, noting that the Florida governor is not running for governor of Georgia. Brian Kemp has recently run for candidates in New York, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, despite having just crossed the border. Kemp won his own re-election bid on Tuesday, beating Democrat Stacey Abrams for the second time. The Georgia governor has told allies that he wants to do everything he can to help Walker, including securing a campaign for him, according to people familiar with the matter.

“DeSantis would be helpful. Youngkin would be helpful. Kemp would be helpful. I think those are Georgia’s biggest draws,” Erickson said.

A Republican with knowledge of DeSantis’ political operations said DeSantis’ interest in Walker’s race “depends on what happens” in the remaining two races in the Senate in Arizona and Nevada. Two races are still far ahead, but if Republicans win one of those races, control of the upper chamber will fall to Georgia.

“It became the center of the political world at that time,” the person said.

A spokesman for DeSantis did not respond to a request for comment on his future travel plans. Although DeSantis has backed Republicans on a tough battleground and campaigned for controversial candidates like Arizona’s Cary Lake and Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano, he’s in the middle of the midterm elections. No such effort was made to help Walker, as the former Heisman Trophy winner’s turbulent past and personal troubles kept making headlines.

DeSantis — whose Tallahassee executive mansion is 20 miles from the Florida-Georgia border — also didn’t join the GOP battle in Peach State two years ago, as Republicans ended up losing two Senate races. select.

But a Republican fundraiser close to DeSantis said he might cross the border if the Florida governor believed he could help Walker. “He’s the Republican leader and wants Republicans to take the Senate,” the fundraiser said.

But if DeSantis is in Georgia, Trump allies say it will be harder to convince the former president himself to stay away from the state. To the dismay of those who want Walker’s undisturbed environment, Trump has continued to insult DeSantis in recent days, blasting the Florida governor in a statement Thursday, calling him a “normal”. Republican governor,” lacking “loyalty and class” refused to rule out his own White House bid.

Those attacks could intensify if the Florida Republican runs for Walker, a person close to Trump said.

“imagine [Trump] Seeing Ron being told to campaign for Herschel, ‘Please stay away.’ He’ll ballistic missiles,” the person said.

One Trump aide who requested anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations said one idea being floated was for the former president to help Walker financially with generous checks. Trump’s MAGA Inc. Super PAC gave candidates $16.4 million in the final weeks of the 2022 cycle, and his seat on the Ways and Means Committee exceeded $100 million as of the end of September, according to federal election data.

“He’s working out how to save this moment, and one of the ways he’s doing that is by helping Walker win,” the Trump adviser said, referring to Tuesday’s disastrous result for Republicans and Pennsylvania’s Mohamed Oz The fiasco, the man Trump backed in the Republican Senate primary.

“But I don’t think it’s possible for him to declare a run for president and not run for Walker,” the person added, claiming that Trump’s absence from Georgia as the presumptive front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination would show his responsibility for vulnerable groups. Responsible Republicans – Toxic message at the start of the presidential campaign.

Michael Caputo, a 2016 Trump campaign aide close to the former president, said Trump should raise money for Walker whenever possible because the presidential announcement could lead to a surge in Democratic donations to Warnock.

“You have to offset that on the Walker side. From my perspective, the best thing Trump can do is donate to Herschel and raise a lot of money because he can,” Caputo said.

Trump’s political team has been debating how best to help Walker since the Georgia Senate race was headed to the runoff stage, according to two sources familiar with the matter, both of whom said no firm decision had been made.

In a statement to CNN, Trump spokesman Tyler Budovich said: “President Trump’s 220-16 record in the contest that has been called is undeniable in President Trump’s support. Next, Herschel Walker has a good chance of winning after forcing a runoff.” .

Many of the sensitivities surrounding Trump’s visit to Georgia stem from his campaign as a former Republican senator. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two years ago, when both Republicans were fighting for survival in their own runoff races.

On the eve of the 2021 runoff, Trump slammed statewide GOP officials for refusing to challenge Georgia’s 2020 election result, falsely claiming he won the state and promising to return when Kemp ran for re-election against the Republican incumbent. Trump later did that by recruiting Perdue to challenge Camp in the primary.

Republicans back in Washington watched the rally in horror, deeply concerned that Trump’s heightened focus on electoral fraud and various attacks on GOP officials across the state would reduce the turnout of his core supporters the next day. In the end, both Loeffler and Perdue lost the runoff, pushing Warnock and Jon Ossoff into the Senate and giving Democrats a narrow majority.

The event is haunting Trump again as Republicans face what could be the same situation in 2021, where if Democratic senators gain control of the Senate in Georgia, control of the Senate will fall to Georgia. Mark Kelly wins re-election in Arizona, Republican Adam Laxalter defeats the incumbent Democratic senator. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. Laxalter’s current lead is slim, while Kelly leads his Republican challenger by more than 100,000 votes, according to voting results as of Friday morning. Not too worried that he’ll send a message that dampens turnout, Republicans’ main concern this time around is that Trump will end up dragging Walker down in a state that was once crimson, now trending purple, and the polarizing former president The exact position may be alienated. Voter Walker needs to prevail.

“Herschel needs to do better with Kemp voters and independents in the suburbs,” Reid said. “About 5 percent of those who voted for Camp did not vote for Herschel, and he needs to get at least 1 in 4.”

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