if gop fails to win back senate it can thank trump again

WASHINGTON ― If Republicans fail to take back the Senate in Tuesday’s midterm elections despite an unpopular Democratic president and high inflation, they can once again thank the coup-attempting leader of their party, Donald Trump.

The former president shaped the field by only backing those who agreed to spread his lies about the 2020 election having been “stolen” from him, and in so doing, he saddled the GOP with relatively weak candidates in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and New Hampshire.

In the sole case where a GOP nominee has refused to spread that “big lie” ― businessman Joe O’Dea in Colorado ― Trump has attacked him, actively hurting both his campaign and Republican chances to win back the chamber.

“Trump doesn’t care about the GOP. He cares about Trump,” said one top Republican consultant, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He pointed out that Trump sabotaged two Georgia Senate runoffs in January 2021 by telling his followers that Georgia elections were rigged and could not be trusted.

“I don’t recall him apologizing for losing two seats in Georgia in 2021, which put Democrats in a position to pass all these harmful policies and those losses could be objectively laid at his feet,” the consultant said. “If you’re a Republican and you’re upset about the American Rescue Plan, infrastructure spending and the Inflation Reduction Act, you already have Trump to blame. A Senate majority would have stood in the way of all that.”

Trump’s staff did not respond to HuffPost queries.

At a rally in Ohio on Monday night, Trump’s fourth in five days, he continued to primarily talk about himself, complained that he had been twice impeached, lied about his accomplishments in office, lied about the election having been “rigged and stolen,” attacked the prosecutors investigating his coup attempt and retention of secret documents ― and barely mentioned the GOP candidates on Tuesday’s ballot until the end of his two hours on stage, when he read off a list of many of the candidates he has endorsed around the country.

Former President Donald Trump speaks Monday at a campaign rally in support of Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance at Dayton International Airport. Most of his speech, however, was about himself and his grievances.
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

His aides had spent the day teasing the possibility that he would announce his 2024 candidacy Monday evening, and Trump mocked reporters in attendance as “waiting for something” ― but in the end just announced he would make an announcement a week from Election Day.

“They’re coming after me because I’m fighting for you,” he told his audience in Dayton, Ohio, as he went through a series of slides showing how he is the favored Republican for the 2024 presidential nominee.

Senate GOP leaders were hoping to entice term-limited Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to run for Senate, but he chose not to after Trump’s repeated attacks on him for not overturning Joe Biden’s election win in that state. Republicans are now stuck with Blake Masters, who spread Trump’s election lies during the primary campaign in addition to adopting other far-right positions.

In New Hampshire, Republicans were hoping to persuade Gov. Chris Sununu to run against Democratic incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan. Sununu, who has incurred Trump’s anger, declined and is running for reelection.

And in Georgia, Trump persuaded football great Herschel Walker, a friend since his days as a USFL owner three decades ago, to declare his candidacy early on, which drove away other potential candidates and could now result in Democratic Sen. Rafael Warnock holding on to his seat with polls showing a tight race.

“Privately, they’ve been criticizing Trump’s choices for months,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said of Senate GOP leaders.

He added, though, that he doubts many will suddenly go public with those criticisms if Tuesday does not produce a Republican Senate. “Unless there is a virus going around whose main symptom is acquired courage, I don’t expect to see many virtuous converts emerging,” Sabato said.

Trump is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, including the scheme to submit to the National Archives fraudulent slates of electors from states where Biden narrowly won as a way to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to award Trump a second term. A separate probe is looking at Trump’s removal of highly classified documents from the White House and subsequent refusal to hand them over, even in defiance of a subpoena.

In addition to the federal criminal investigations, a Georgia prosecutor is looking at Trump and his allies’ attempts to coerce state officials into falsely declaring him the winner in those swing states.

Trump, despite losing the 2020 election by 7 million votes nationally and by 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ― his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― led to the deaths of five people, including one police officer, the injury of 140 officers and four police suicides.

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