Whom is Trump endorsing in 2022?
Throughout his presidency, Trump’s endorsement held significant weight in Republican primaries. Prominent Governors like Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp, for example, owe their careers to Trump’s influence peddling. His selections rarely fell short (i.e. Foster Friess), and he would often avoid mentioning them when they did.
But paying fealty to the GOP’s enigmatic standard-bearer might be a thing of the past. Next year’s contests should allow us to determine whether or not Trump’s endorsement is still effective in his post-presidency. Let’s take a look at some of the competitive primaries he’s targeting so far.
Alabama – Veteran Republican Richard Shelby is retiring next year, ending a long and prosperous Senate tenure. First elected in 1986 as a conservative Democrat, Shelby became a Republican after the 1994 wave. Since then, he has become Alabama’s elder statesman. Venerated and appreciated by Alabamans of all stripes, the experienced lawmaker will be leaving Washington with no shortage of goodwill. The primary race to replace him will be a quintessential battle between the juxtaposed “establishment” and “Trump” wings of the GOP.
Representing the establishment is Katie Britt, Shelby’s former Chief of Staff. Besides securing the incumbent’s blessing for her bid, Britt’s strong business connections have allowed her to establish an abundant warchest. Her main challenger is Congressman Mo Brooks, who has represented the Huntsville-based 5th district since 2011. With a history of questionable comments and Trump’s endorsement on his side, Brooks is undoubtedly the “outsider” candidate.
A Trump endorsement should theoretically help a Republican hopeful in Alabama (Tuberville vs Sessions), though Brooks’s polling lead has recently given way to an evenly-matched race against Britt. Black Hawk Down POW Mike Durant’s growing momentum in recent polls should also be taken seriously. If the race remains hotly-contested, a runoff will almost certainly be in the cards.
Brooks ran for Senate in the 2017 special, but finished in third place in the first round of voting. Interim Senator Luther Strange was beaten by Roy Moore in the runoff despite having Trump’s support.
Alaska – Moderate Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was often a thorn in the ex-President’s side, particularly after voting to convict him in his second impeachment trial. It’s therefore no surprise that Trump is backing her primary challenger: former Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration Kelly Tshibaka. The Senate Leadership Fund and the NRCC have both lined up against Trump, with McConnell and Scott both keen on protecting every GOP incumbent up for election.
Murkowski would probably be a lot more vulnerable to her challenge if it weren’t for Alaska’s new Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system, passed narrowly via statewide referendum last year. The program would lessen Murkowski’s traditional primary woes (she lost in 2010 but won the general as a write-in candidate) making it possible for two Republicans to advance to November’s final round. Assuming she makes it there, Murkowski would probably live to see fight another day.
Since we haven’t seen much polling under the new RCV system, this race is up in the air when it comes to making predictions. Vendetta is generally a powerful influence, so there is no doubt that Trump is particularly committed to seeing Murkowski felled.
North Carolina – Long-time Republican Senator Richard Burr will not be running again next year. He had announced his retirement before the 2020 cycle, well in advance of allegations of insider trading that engulfed him last summer. His retirement probably benefits Republicans, who are currently favorites to maintain the seat in one of next year’s marquee Senate battles.
With Jeff Jackson and Erica Smith pulling the plug on Senate bids, Cheri Beasley is expected to secure the Democratic nomination. Naturally, those changes have diverted all political attention in the Tar Heel State to the increasingly-raucous GOP primary between Congressman Ted Budd and former Governor Pat McCrory. Early on, it seemed like McCrory would ride his statewide name recognition to victory without about half of the total vote. Since Mark Walker’s suspension and Trump’s endorsement of Budd, though, McCrory’s numbers have precipitously slipped.
There hasn’t been any new polling since Walker ended his campaign, but releases leading up to the field change showed Budd rapidly gaining on the former Governor. It is now unclear whether the Mecklenburg veteran has the strength to unite the rest of the state behind him. Besides dominating in his own Congressional district, Budd will need to branch out enough geographically to overwhelm McCrory’s dominance in the well-populated Charlotte area. Burr has endorsed McCrory, who is attempting a political comeback after a nail-biter reelection loss to Democrat Roy Cooper in 2016.
My name is Harrison Lavelle and I am a political analyst studying political science and international studies at the College of New Jersey. As a co-founder and partner at Split Ticket, I coordinate our House coverage. I write about a variety of electoral topics and produce political maps. Besides elections, my hobbies include music, history, language, aviation, and fitness.
Contact me at @HWLavelleMaps or email@example.com