Trump slump: Ex-president finds his power diminished after endorsing GOP challengers

Trump slump: Ex-president finds his power diminished after endorsing GOP challengers
Trump’s endorsement has yet to boost a single challenger past a GOP incumbent in fundraising totals

As the indisputable leader of the Republican Party, former President Donald Trump has attempted to make his mark on a number of political races around the country as he seeks vengeance on GOP lawmakers who betrayed him in the days after the 6 January attack on the Capitol.

But recent Federal Elections Commission (FEC) data reveals that the former president’s supposed status as a GOP kingmaker has yet to translate into an overwhelming wave of dollars that his loyalists would hope to follow his endorsement.

In fact, in every House and Senate race where Mr Trump has taken a side against a sitting incumbent who supported his impeachment, the incumbent remains comfortably ahead of their challengers in fundraising.

The most glaring example of the former president’s inability to move the fundraising needle to a significant degree is in Wyoming, where Rep Liz Cheney is running for a fourth term in office against Harriet Hageman, one of her own former supporters.

Ms Cheney is probably Mr Trump’s most-hated Republican in the House, and his endorsement of her challenger was one of the more anticipated moves of the campaign season so far. Despite this, Ms Hageman has taken in just over $300,000 in donations since beginning her campaign nearly two months ago; her current cash-on-hand is dwarfed by Ms Cheney’s massive war chest totaling more than $3 million, a tenfold advantage.

Ms Hageman’s fundraising haul, while modest compared to Ms Cheney, is likely going to outpace any other candidate in the primary besides the congresswoman, however.

The Wyoming congresswoman lost her seat as GOP conference chair earlier this year but has remained one of the party’s top fundraisers in the House, making it a likely difficult climb for Ms Hageman to compete on the airwaves and fend off attacks from Ms Cheney should they come as the midterm election approaches next year.

Similar dynamics are playing out in Michigan and Washington state. Congressman Fred Upton doubled the quarterly fundraising haul of Steve Carra, who was endorsed by Mr Trump two days before Ms Hageman. Rep Jaime Herrera-Beutler edged out Joe Kent, the Trump-backed challenger for her seat, by around $70,000.

In the Senate, Mr Trump has yet to even endorse challengers to most of the GOP senators who broke ranks with him this year. Just one, Sen Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, currently faces a challenger backed by the former president. Kelly Tshibaka, the challenger, raised about $465,000 in the third quarter of 2021, less than half of the $1.1 million raised by Ms Murkowski in the same period despite the fact that the senator has not yet even publicly confirmed her reelection plans.

Most perplexing of all is the continued inaction of the former president’s own money. The Save America PAC, Mr Trump’s vessel for endorsing candidates and releasing tweet-style statements following his ban from Twitter, has raised tens of millions so far this cycle but spent just over $3 million so far.

Holding on to that much cash could indicate that the PAC is planning to wait for Mr Trump himself to reenter the national campaign stage, either by running himself for president in 2024 or taking a more active role in campaigning against his GOP enemies next year.

Mr Trump is thought to be the favorite choice among a majority of Republicans for the party’s 2024 nomination, even as a number of elected officials have expressed a hope that he will not run.

Sen Bill Cassidy, a GOP senator who was reelected in 2020 and therefore remains safe (for now) from the president’s wrath, said as recently as this month that the former president was responsible for record losses suffered by the GOP last year.

“President Trump is the first president, in the Republican side at least, to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning,” Mr Cassidy told Axios.