A new round of lackluster showings by Republican candidates reignited a debate Wednesday within the GOP over whether President Trump will be a drag on the party’s chances in November and should stay out of some of the country’s most hotly contested races.
Inside the White House, Trump aides are mapping out plans for the fall that would offer a variety of options to Republican candidates, including visits by the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump to blue states and presidential tweets to bolster red-state allies.
But mounting apprehension about Trump’s political capital lingered in Washington and on the campaign trail.
In a flurry of elections on Tuesday — from the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, to the technology corridor in Washington state — Democrats turned out in droves and significantly overperformed expectations by posing serious challenges to Republicans in staunchly GOP districts.
Many Republican strategists viewed the results as a dark omen three months ahead of Election Day, saying they illustrate the limits of Trump’s ability to boost candidates, particularly in suburban areas where the president’s popularity has suffered.
Even in Republican primaries, securing Trump’s endorsement was not a guarantee of electoral success.
“Nothing bodes well,” said longtime Republican consultant Stuart Stevens, a frequent Trump critic. “You look at the amount of money spent on the Republican side in Ohio, the focus put on it,” including a Trump rally last weekend in the district, “and you have an early warning sign. It’s time for Republicans to counteract.”
Trump took a different lesson from the outcomes, crowing in a flurry of tweets that his presence on the campaign trail and his record could lift his party and prompt a “giant Red Wave!”
“As long as I campaign and/or support Senate and House candidates (within reason), they will win!” Trump wrote.
Despite Trump’s last-minute visit and Republicans significantly outspending Democrats, Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson was barely ahead of Democrat Danny O’Connor, an elected county recorder, in Tuesday’s special congressional election in central Ohio. The race remained too close to call Wednesday, with thousands of provisional votes still outstanding.