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Trump’s endorsement isn’t nearly as potent as he pretends it is

As Donald Trump sees it, Republicans who fail to get his endorsement “don’t win.” Reality is telling a very different story.


Rep. Jim Jordan appeared on Fox News this week and declared Donald Trump’s endorsement to be the most powerful in the history of the United States. The Ohio Republican’s sentiment echoed the rhetoric the former president has pushed himself for years.

In fact, it was just a few months ago when Trump said his endorsement “is considered by the real pollsters to be the strongest endorsement in U.S. political history.” He added that his record is “almost unblemished.”

The word “almost” was doing a lot of work in that sentence.

Throughout his presidency, the Republican’s endorsement proved meaningless in all kinds of contests — primaries and general elections, state and federal elections, in blue and red states — and so far in 2022, some high-profile Trump-backed candidates have also fallen short.

  • In Nebraska, the former president went all out to help Charles Herbster win a GOP gubernatorial primary, which he lost by three points. Also, in Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, the former president didn’t literally endorse Steve Kuehl’s primary challenge against Rep. Don Bacon, but Trump denounced the Republican incumbent, declaring at his rally, in reference to Bacon, “I hope you vote like hell against that guy.” Bacon defeated Kuehl by 44 points.
  • In Idaho, Trump backed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s primary challenge to Republican Gov. Brad Little, and the incumbent ended up winning by 30 points.
  • In North Carolina, the former president urged voters in the 11th congressional district to look past Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s “foolish mistakes,” and give the bizarre congressman “a second chance.” The incumbent lost his primary anyway.

The list will soon grow. Not only is the outcome of Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Senate primary uncertain — Mehmet Oz may yet fall short — but there are other key contests on deck where Trump-backed candidates appear to be struggling badly. Take Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial primary, for example.

What’s more, this doesn’t include other messy developments from recent months, including the former president endorsing Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania before the Republican was forced to quit, and Trump’s decision to un-endorse Rep. Mo Brooks’ candidacy in Alabama.

Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster, told The New York Times a couple of months ago, “I don’t know whether he is letting emotion rule his decision making or if he is getting bad advice, but it seems like he is picking candidates who are pretty weak, and that’s not a place — when you’re trying to be kingpin — where you want to be.”

At this point, the former president’s supporters will be quick to argue that his successful endorsements easily outnumber his misses, and that’s certainly true. In fact, he’s issued a flurry of endorsements in recent months, and with dozens of Trump-backed candidates prevailing in primaries, the overall win-loss record looks quite impressive, the occasional failures notwithstanding.

All of this comes, however, with an enormous asterisk: The Republican has issued dozens of endorsements to allies whose primary victories were never in doubt. The overall tally, in other words, is padded with sure-things.

As for why it matters, let’s not lose sight of the larger context. As regular readers know, for Trump, the power of his endorsement is supposed to be — indeed, it must be — the stuff of legend. Last summer, he commented on the Republicans who beg for in-person meetings, where they plead for his electoral support, marveling at his self-professed power.

“We have had so many, and so many are coming in,” Trump said. “It’s been pretty amazing. You see the numbers. They need the endorsement. I don’t say this in a braggadocious way, but if they don’t get the endorsement, they don’t win.”

Except, as we were reminded again this week, that’s not true — which should send a message to Republicans everywhere about the need, or lack thereof, to kiss the former president’s ring.