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Trump hosts the first of many 'Apprentice'-style Republican meetings

An army of GOP contenders for a variety of offices will soon make pilgrimages to south Florida in order to kiss Trump's ring and ask for favors.
Image: Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida
Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 3, 2019.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

It wasn't long after Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) voted to impeach Donald Trump in January when the Republican congressman picked up a primary rival. Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide, kicked off his intra-party challenge in February.

Miller's former boss, Donald Trump, not only supports the Ohioan's campaign, the former president also held a fundraiser for his former staffer this week at Trump's West Palm Beach golf club.

But before Wednesday night's event, Trump summoned Ohio's four leading Republican U.S. Senate candidates to a backroom meeting. Politico reported overnight that the gathering was "a scene right out of 'The Apprentice.'"

What ensued was a 15-minute backroom backbiting session reminiscent of Trump's reality TV show. [Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel] said he was "crushing" [former state GOP Chair Jane Timken] in polling. Timken touted her support on the ground thanks to her time as state party chair. [Investment banker Mike Gibbons] mentioned how he'd helped Trump's campaign financially. [Technology company executive Bernie Moreno] noted that his daughter had worked on Trump's 2020 campaign.

The former president, the article added, continues to "relish pitting people against one another."

At a certain level, none of this may seem especially surprising. Trump remains a powerful force in Republican politics, despite his failures and scandals, and it stands to reason that Senate candidates would compete -- with varying degrees of formality -- for his affection, especially those running in a state he won by eight points last fall.

What may be less obvious, however, is that this private gathering of four Ohio Republicans is about to be duplicated, over and over again, for the foreseeable future.

We've already seen many congressional Republican leaders -- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott (R-Fla.), among others -- make the pilgrimage to south Florida to tell the former president how impressed they are with his awesomeness.

But an army of GOP contenders for a variety of offices will continue to do the same thing over the next several months, kissing his ring and asking for favors.

Politico had a related report last month, noting that Trump "will soon begin vetting candidates at Mar-a-Lago who are eager to fulfill his promise to exact vengeance upon incumbent Republicans who've scorned him, and to ensure every open GOP seat in the 2022 midterms has a MAGA-approved contender vying for it."

I will confess that I've never actually seen an episode of "The Apprentice," but as I understand it, the program was a competition of sorts in which people completed assorted tasks in the hopes of impressing the reality-show host and getting a job the contestants knew little about.

If you're a Republican seeking a Trump endorsement, it would probably be wise to start brushing up on how the show worked.