Republicans see Trump’s weakening as a Democratic talking point

Republicans increasingly trust the former president Donald trumpDonald Trump Jan. 6 panel demands that Meadows testify Friday or risks indictment for contempt Defense and Homeland Security: Biden celebrates Veterans Day Trump backs Texas representative who said he ‘very well could have’ committed impeachment crimes PLUS it won’t be the biggest factor in his effort to regain his majority in the House and Senate next year.

There is little doubt among Republicans that the former president continues to exert profound influence over the Republican Party and its conservative voter base, and it is clear that he will play a dominant role in the 2022 primary process.

But republican Glenn youngkinGlenn YoungkinGOP Sees Inflation as Winning Issue New Ad Campaign Targets Five House Democrats on Inflation ‘Woke Up’ discussion simmering for Democrats MORELast week’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race has many in the party convinced that their path to victory, at least on key political battlefields, will depend more on issues like education and the economy, a A strategy that could complicate any effort by Democrats to call the midterm election another referendum on Trump.

“You need someone to go first and not hug the great DJT,” said Jean Card, a former Bush administration official and critic of Trump. “We needed someone to show that you can win without him. And the first step in ignoring Trump is winning without him. And that just happened and that sets an example to follow. That is political leadership at its finest, because it implies winning. “

That conclusion runs counter to recent Republican orthodoxy that the best way for Republicans to get ahead is to accept Trump and his long list of political grievances. But it’s one that could prove critical for Republicans as they seek to gain control of Congress next year, a goal that will depend in part on their ability to win back many of the voters who turned away from the Republican Party under Trump.

Republicans need to win just five House seats and just one Senate seat next year to regain control of Congress. And with some of its best recruiting opportunities in battlefield states and districts, attracting undecided voters is a top priority for the Republican Party.

Throughout his campaign, Youngkin deftly balanced the demands of Trump’s conservative base with a broader focus on issues like education policy, taxes, and inflation that caught the attention of many of the independent and suburban voters who helped boost Democratic advances in Virginia in recent years.

While he echoed parts of Trump’s rhetoric during his initial campaign for the Republican nomination, Youngkin spoke little of the former president in the run-up to the Nov. 2 election and never campaigned alongside him.

Meanwhile, Democrats sought to portray Youngkin as a Trump acolyte, hoping to replicate the strategy that helped clinch key party victories in recent years. That message ultimately fell through with many voters who were more focused on quality-of-life issues, such as the coronavirus pandemic and inflation, than they were on Trump.

“I hope Democrats are still obsessed with Donald Trump,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida), chairman of the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC), said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “What we have to do is say that we would love the endorsement of Donald Trump. If you are a Republican, you want his endorsement. But you’re going to win in trouble. “

Scott’s comments strike the heart of the GOP’s approach to the midterm elections: No Republican candidate can afford to isolate or ignore the former president and the conservative voters who remain loyal to him, especially if they hope to win their party’s nomination in the first place. But it will be issues like jobs, public safety and education that will lead the party to victory next year, Scott said.

Even among Republican voters, endorsement of Trump alone is no guarantee of political support.

A recent survey from Morning Consult discovered that the senator John thuneJohn Randolph ThuneGingrich Endorses Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate Race Republican Party Strategy on Spending Bill: Get Democrats to Take Hard Votes Manchin Criticizes ‘Hostile’ Political Environment MORE(RS.D.) approval numbers have risen dramatically among Republican voters, despite calls from Trump for him to be elected in the primaries. That same poll showed a similar rebound for the governor of Georgia. Brian kempBrian Kemp Remington Plans to Invest 0M in Georgia Arms Factory Research Center Ben Shapiro’s Media Firm Sues Biden Administration Over Vaccination Mandate Texas AG Sues White House Over Vaccination Mandate MORE (R), against whom Trump vowed to campaign after he rejected the former president’s demands to annul the results of his state’s 2020 elections.

For Democrats, their dismal performance in Virginia and a handful of other states underscored what one party strategist called a “major miscalculation,” namely that persistent animosity toward Trump would be a key encouraging force for both his base and his ranks. for undecided voters who rebelled against the government. former president in 2018 and 2020.

“At some point, there needs to be some kind of broad recognition that the anti-Trump vote is really only enough when he’s on the ballot,” the strategist said. “The rules still apply. People are not going to vote thinking about who the former president is. This is going to be about [President] Joe bidenJoe BidenBiden and Xi of China to hold virtual summit on Monday: Briahna Joy Gray reports: Biden ‘plays dumb’ with cancellation of student debt Defense and national security – Biden celebrates Veterans Day MORE and what the Democrats are doing. “

Still, there is little consensus in the party on how much to talk about Trump. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), insisted this week that the former president remains “a tremendous responsibility” for the Republican Party, noting the extremes he did. Youngkin to distance himself from Trump.

“Glenn Youngkin ran as a teenager in a slasher movie away from Donald Trump,” Maloney told The New York Times.

One Republican strategist said that if Republicans take anything away from the Virginia gubernatorial race, it should be that each candidate must make their own determination on how to handle Trump, and the former president must give Republicans the freedom to do so as well.

“Politics is driven by demand and the demand depends on the voters,” said the strategist. “So yeah, keeping Trump on the sidelines in Virginia was a good idea, because it’s not a Trump-loving state. Maybe that’s not the best strategy in a place like Ohio or Florida or another state where you won. But could it be useful in a place like Pennsylvania? Yes.”

“As far as Trump is concerned, he wants to be involved in everything,” added the strategist. “You need to know when to show up is self-destructive.”

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