Former president Donald Trump is flexing his political influence in this year’s Republican primaries, backing his favored candidates in hotly contested statewide and congressional races. Trump has signaled that he believes the key to a potential run for president in 2024 is showing that he can still shape the GOP.
“I’m the king of endorsements,” Trump told The Washington Post in April. But his seemingly random endorsement strategy is potentially risky: While many of his picks are incumbents expected to sail to reelection, he has also weighed in on competitive primaries that expose fractures in the Republican Party.
Trump’s win rate among nonincumbents so far: 0%
While the large majority of Trump’s endorsees — of whom most were incumbents — won their primaries so far, several nonincumbents lost.
The races present a real-time test of whether Trump’s influence on Republican voters is waning nearly two years after he lost the presidency. The Post is tracking his endorsements — through news releases and declarations at rallies or other venues — in statewide and federal primary elections this year.
Trump endorsements for U.S. Senate
Republicans need to flip only one Senate seat to take the majority in the evenly divided chamber. Trump has thrown his support behind more than a dozen Senate candidates so far. In Missouri, the former president injected more chaos into an already tumultuous race, simply endorsing “ERIC” — a first name shared by two rival candidates — former governor Eric Greitens and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt — as he suggested he was leaving it to voters to choose between them.
Trump-endorsed Mehmet Oz eked out at win after the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Pennsylvania went to a recount. Trump had originally backed Sean Parnell in that race but Parnell dropped out following allegations of domestic and other abuse. In Ohio’s crowded primary race, Trump’s own advisers tried to dissuade him from endorsing J.D. Vance, whose campaign was lagging in the polls until the former president intervened. Vance went on to win the nomination on May 3.
Trump dropped his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, accusing the strong Trump supporter of making a “horrible mistake” by abandoning talk of the 2020 election. Brooks had struggled to win support despite Trump’s initial backing, though he advanced to a June 21 runoff, which he lost. Trump endorsed his opponent, Katie Britt, in early June.
Trump endorsements for U.S. House
In the House, Trump’s endorsements are about rewarding loyalty and settling scores. He has endorsed a primary challenger against all but one House Republican — Rep. David G. Valadao (Calif.) — who voted in favor of his impeachment last year. Reps. Tom Rice (S.C.), Peter Meijer (Mich.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler lost their primaries to Trump-backed challengers.
Trump’s winning record is sure to be boosted by the more than 100 incumbents he has backed so far. Trump has released many endorsements in noncompetitive races days ahead of the primaries.
One incumbent did not win: Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), a freshman congressman, was endorsed by the former president — but it was not enough to overcome a widespread Republican campaign to take him down.
Another Trump endorsee, Morgan Ortagus, was kicked off the primary ballot by the Tennessee Republican Party in April.
Trump endorsements in other statewide races
Trump’s first loss in the midterms came in mid-May as agribusiness executive Charles Herbster, who has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple women, failed to win the nomination for Nebraska governor.
Overall, Trump’s endorsements for state-level offices such as governor and secretary of state are his most clear effort to punish officials he wrongly believes delivered the 2020 election to Joe Biden. His endorsement of a candidate is most often tied to their efforts to confirm election fraud in states he continues to falsely claim were stolen from him.
That was especially so in Georgia. Trump had thrown his support behind former senator David Perdue, who lost, claiming incumbent governor Brian Kemp, “allowed massive Election Fraud to take place.” Trump also failed to back winners in statewide secretary of state, attorney general and insurance commissioner races.
Full list of Trump’s endorsees