Late last year, Donald Trump tried to help then-Sen. Luther Strange (R) win his primary election in Alabama. Local Republicans ignored the president’s suggestion. Soon after, Trump tried to get Strange’s opponent, Roy Moore, elected to the Senate. That didn’t work, either.
Nevertheless, the Washington Post reported a few days after a Democrat won Alabama’s special election that the president and his team were planning “a full-throttle campaign to plunge the president into the midterm elections.” White House officials had already met with 116 candidates, and Trump reportedly told aides he “wants to travel extensively” and spend “much of 2018 campaigning.”
In January, Trump told Reuters that he intends to spend “probably four or five days a week” helping GOP candidates in 2018.
At face value, none of this was surprising. It’s not exactly a secret that the president prefers campaigning to governing, and with Republicans feeling anxious about their electoral prospects, it stands to reason Trump would be eager to hit the campaign trail. After all, a president can realistically only invest so much time on golfing and watching conservative media.
The better question is the extent to which Trump will be welcome on the stump. Axios had an interesting item yesterday.
[T]he reality is that out of the 23 most vulnerable House Republicans, only two candidates said they would accept Trump’s help – and neither were especially eager about it.
Axios reached out to the 23 House Republicans who represent districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and asked whether they’d welcome a presidential visit. In fairness, several of these districts are represented by GOP incumbents who are retiring this year.
But others are running for re-election – and they’re not rolling out the welcome mat for their party’s president.
Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-Colo.) campaign manager said, for example, “I don’t think it would make sense for him to even come here.” Rep. Peter Roskam’s (R-Ill.) communications director told Axios, “We have not requested the president’s assistance and we don’t plan on requesting his assistance.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s (R-Fla.) communications director didn’t rule it out, though his office said the congressman would welcome “anyone who wants to support Carlos’ efforts and endorse his bipartisan approach to public service.”
Of the 23, the only one who’d welcome Trump? Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), best known as Vladimir Putin’s favorite congressman.
Whether members like these invite the president to their districts or not, it’s a safe bet their Democratic opponents will be referencing Trump quite a bit this fall. That said, the president may be willing to spend up to five days a week campaigning, but the practical impediments may be greater than he realizes.
Postscript: Trump was in Pittsburgh over the weekend, trying to boost Republican Rick Saccone’s campaign. It’s a safe bet GOP officials took note of the results, and the president’s inability to help carry his party’s candidate across the finish line.