Trump is grappling with 2024 questions amid disappointing GOP midterm election results
Palm Beach, Florida
Donald Trump wanted to catapult ua the third presidential campaign with a wave of Republican midterm gains behind him. Instead, he’s coming out of Tuesday election night facing questions about his political future and the momentum behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantispotentially his potential primary foe in the 2024 primary.
With key races are still too early to announce in Arizona and Nevada, and with Georgia going to the Senate runoff, Trump entered Wednesday with some advertising wins and the possibility that they could soon be overshadowed by further losses.
His chosen candidates for open seats in the Senate in Ohio and North Carolina won, as did incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson in the Wisconsin. But he lost a critical Senate contest Pennsylvaniawhere Mehmet Oz, whom he supported in the primaries despite widespread concern about his electability, was defeated from Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. U Michigan, Trump’s nominee in the gubernatorial race failed to unseat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. And while Republicans still appear to be on track to win a majority in the House of Representatives, it will likely be much slimmer than first thought.
“As powerful as Trump is in the Republican Party, we’ve learned that he can’t declare anyone the winner. You still need candidates who have the basics,” said Bryan Lanza, a longtime Trump adviser.
Others were more blunt in their assessment of Tuesday’s known outcomes.
Rep. Troy Nehls, a Republican from Texas who won re-election and has been endorsed by Trump, appeared to take a swipe at the former president in a radio interview Wednesday with other GOP candidates.
“There’s just a lot of negativity about Trump,” Nehls said. In a statement to CNN after this story was published, the congressman said he still supports Trump and will “support him as the 47th president.”
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a current Trump adviser, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, acknowledged that Trump is “in a difficult position coming out of tonight.”
“Two narratives will dominate over the next week and neither will be easy to dispel,” the adviser said.
Acutely aware of his unprecedented involvement in the Republican primaries earlier this year, the adviser and other Trump allies said they expected the former president to be blamed for fielding flawed candidates in some of the party’s most important contests — especially Oz, the daytime talk show host who barely resided in Pennsylvania before launching his Senate campaign there.
Trump’s disappointment was palpable in the gilded ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he gathered with dozens of aides, allies and donors to watch the return Tuesday night. When he returned to the party halfway through the night after a private dinner, his mood had visibly changed.
“Interesting evening,” he called out to reporters before taking the stage for brief and unenthusiastic remarks.
As the crowd thinned, Trump sat at a table in front of a television tuned to Fox News with only a few advisers. Meanwhile, several guests whose names appeared on a VIP list a Trump adviser circulated to reporters were nowhere to be found, including some who apparently decided to skip the event — appearing as television pundits throughout the night from studios in other parts of the country.
The end result was the exact scenario Trump’s advisers had hoped to avoid: an election in which his top recruits failed or failed and his Republican primary rival rose to new stardom.
Sources familiar with the matter said Trump left the party at the end of the night in a sour mood and resentful of the attention on DeSantis, who won re-election by a monstrous margin of victory and became the first Republican governor to carry Miami-Dade County, a densely populated and diverse area, for the first time in two decades. Just hours before the Florida governor’s victory, Trump blasted DeSantis in comments to reporters on his 757 plane, threatening to leak embarrassing information about him and suggesting he could have been more “gracious” of Trump’s support in his 2018 gubernatorial bid.
“It was not a great night for Trump and it makes 2024 more competitive,” one Republican operative said.
By Wednesday morning, Trump was in contact with allies in early 2024 swing states as he worked to develop a message that could carry him forward, according to two people familiar with the conversations. In Iowa, Trump plans to praise Republican Brenna Bird’s defeat of incumbent Democratic Attorney General Tom Mueller, even though he endorsed Bird until Nov. 5, three days before her election.
As he works to plan his next steps, one of the biggest questions he’s grappling with is how to approach DeSantis, sources said.
Before his landslide victory Tuesday, the Florida governor “already had a moment, but the spotlight just quadrupled in intensity,” one Trump adviser said.
“We have to figure out how to get it back before next Tuesday,” the Trump adviser added, referring to the “big announcement” Trump has been teasing for Nov. 15, when he is expected to officially announce his third campaign for the White House. DeSantis’ strength was reflected in the CNN exit polls on Tuesdaywhich showed the Republican governor exceeding President Joe Biden’s 2020 margin of victory among Florida’s Latino voters and maintaining a slim lead among independents, which Biden carried in the state by 11 points two years ago.
Both data points could prove compelling with a GOP primary in between DeSantis and Trumpwho made inroads with black and Hispanic voters in some states in 2020, but not as much as the Florida Republican.
Two people close to the former president said he backed himself into a corner by publicly setting a date for the expected campaign announcement before the outcome of the midterm elections was known, which he did at a campaign rally in Ohio to compromise with allies he did not want to use the event as a place to launch your campaign.
“He has to [announce]”, said a source close to Trump, adding that it is too late for him to withdraw. “It would be embarrassing.”
Another Trump ally noted that it would be “less embarrassing to delay than to get a bunch of silence.”
Some in Trump’s circle hope a runoff in Georgia could help the former president delay the announcement and save face.
Trump adviser Jason Miller said Herschel Walker — who will face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Second round on December 6CNN screening on Wednesday – should be a priority.
“I’m going to advise him to hold off until the Georgia runoff, assuming the race is still trending,” Miller said.
Others expect the advice to fall on deaf ears. One source noted that Trump has so far been resistant to arguments that he should delay his announcement, and as of Wednesday morning it was still unclear to some of the former president’s closest aides how he would handle his 2024 ambitions. Would he continue defiantly – launching the campaign regardless of the potential obstacles ahead – or would he settle for a rare recount?
“I could see him claiming that Republicans didn’t turn out in droves because he wasn’t on the ballot and blaming everyone but himself,” one of his advisers said.
For Trump, Tuesday’s stunning results followed months of intense engagement in a midterm cycle that marked a marked departure from the post-presidential activities of his modern predecessors. As early as last summer, he began working to recruit candidates for key Senate contests that would advance his false claims about the 2020 election.
“He wanted to be seen as a legendary kingmaker,” said a former Trump campaign official.
Until this spring, Trump directly interfered in contentious primaries — endorsing candidates he saw as the biggest MAGAs, criticizing their opponents in statements and posts on Truth Social, and apparently ignoring advice from some of his advisers to stay on the sidelines until the general election began. . Trump has often argued that his involvement will eventually pay dividends, not only leading to majorities in both houses of Congress, but also ensuring that elected officials loyal to him — not outsiders — are installed in Washington and the mansions of key governors.
In many cases, even candidates Trump did not endorse decorated their campaign websites with his image or famous phrases like “America First” or “MAGA Fighter.” During the cycle, GOP candidates made regular trips to Mar-a-Lago to solicit his support. Others have shelled out thousands of dollars to host a fundraising event at a waterfront property, hoping the former president will take note of their loyalty and reward them with support.
Trump finished the cycle by spending more than $16 million through his MAGA Inc. of super PACs in recent weeks yes encourage many of their handpicked candidates and connect his top Democratic targets with Biden, who has struggled with declining favorability during his first two years in office. Hours before results began rolling in Tuesday, Trump’s team circulated a memo touting his “unprecedented success in 2022.” which quantified his campaign appearances and assistance to Republican candidates.
“President Donald J. Trump has endorsed over 330 candidates this election cycle,” the memo said, adding that Trump “has raised nearly $350 million” for Republican candidates and the party as a whole since leaving office.
With votes still being counted in some states, it’s unclear how many of the hundreds of candidates who earned Trump’s endorsement won on Tuesday. What is clear is that Trump’s allies entered Tuesday night believing it would be an undisputed victory for the 45th president.
While gathering with other Trump campaign students at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday, Miller described the former president as a “jagernaut” at the start of the evening.
“Entertainment is going to look a lot different now because of Trump’s MAGA movement,” Miller predicted.
Asked about the 330 endorsements that could make or break his political future, Trump himself began the night by suggesting he should come out the other side of the midterms unblemished, telling NewsNation hours before the polls closed: “I think if they win, I should get every honor. If they lose, nothing should be blamed on me.”
This story has been updated with an additional statement from representative Troy Nehls.
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