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Battleground Republicans unload on Trump ahead of expected 2024 announcement
Some GOP leaders in key states say they wish he wouldn't attempt another White House bid after losing important contests and, in some cases, control of legislative chambers.
Republicans in battleground states and elsewhere — bruised by sweeping losses for a third straight election — are casting blame in a direction they were once reluctant to point: toward former President Donald Trump.
“Personalities come and go,” said Dave Ball, the GOP chair in Pennsylvania’s Washington County, who has supported and defended Trump. “Sometimes you have overstayed your welcome. You’ve got new people, new faces come, and you have to change with the times sometimes.”
In interviews, more than two dozen state GOP leaders, elected officials and operatives said Trump's heavy involvement in midterm contests up and down the ballot doomed them in swing states, leaving intact the Democrats’ blue wall in Pennsylvania and the industrial Midwest and costing them a winnable Senate seat in Nevada. Trump loomed large in the minds of voters, exit polls showed, and in many key races, voters rejected his hand-picked candidates.
Those Republicans, including those who supported him in the past and others who tolerated him but rarely spoke out publicly, said they increasingly see Trump and Trumpism as losing propositions and would prefer he not run for president again in 2024. Trump is preparing to do just that, with a Tuesday announcement expected at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Trump isn’t the only Republican under scrutiny for the party’s midterm failures. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also have faced criticism for the candidates they backed and the money they spent. But Trump, who once assured his followers that if they stuck with him they’d be “tired of winning,” is seeing losses at the state and local levels pile up.
Others contend that Trump himself may no longer be a winner.
“If it’s Trump vs. DeSantis in Wisconsin, DeSantis would win,” said Brandon Scholz, a former Wisconsin GOP chair, referring to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who won re-election in a landslide and has drawn Trump’s ire by positioning himself as a 2024 alternative.
Wisconsin voters last week gave another term to their Democratic governor, Tony Evers, while denying the Republicans a supermajority in the General Assembly — a major blow for Republicans eager to override vetoes. In Pennsylvania, in addition to losing races for governor and the Senate, the GOP is on the verge of losing the state House for the first time in more than a decade. And the wreckage is particularly profound in Michigan, where voters re-elected Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, rejected a slate of election deniers backed by Trump and put Democrats in control of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in nearly 40 years. All three states swung to Joe Biden in 2020 after having favored Trump in 2016.
In Illinois, Republicans had threatened to take two state Supreme Court seats and flip state Senate and House seats. Instead, with a Trump-backed candidate for governor at the top of the ticket, it turned even deeper blue. Jim Durkin, the longtime state House GOP leader, who decided to step down after last week’s results were worse than expected, said “Trump stopped the wave” and is “squarely in the blame” for losses nationwide.
“Trump will say we’re a bunch of RINOs,” Durkin said, referring to the pejoratively used acronym for “Republicans in name only.” “No, we’re Republicans that want to win races.”
Not everyone is pointing the finger at Trump. J.D. Vance, a Trump-endorsed Republican who won a Senate race in Ohio, wrote in a recent opinion article that it’s wrong to blame Trump for an underwhelming midterm performance. Instead, he argued, Republicans’ financial deficit and their inability to turn out their vote were the real problems.
“The point is not that Trump is perfect,” Vance wrote in The American Conservative, adding: “But any effort to pin blame on Trump, and not on money and turnout, isn’t just wrong. It distracts from the actual issues we need to solve as a party over the long term.”
A spokesperson for Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment.