Nov 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The GOP’s double-trouble Trump trap

Donald Trump announces his third presidential campaign at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday.

Donald Trump announces his third presidential campaign at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Former President Trump's candidacy could instantly jeopardize both the presidential race and control of Congress for Republicans, based on exit polls and midterm results.

  • Why it matters: Republicans will face continuing pressure to nominate fringe candidates in primaries which keeps costing the GOP the Senate

What's happening: Trump is a double-edged sword, Axios' Josh Kraushaar writes.

  • Trump juices turnout massively on the GOP side — but is an epic Democratic voter turnout machine.
  • And he’s a turnoff for independent voters, who backed Democrats in this year’s midterms against all expectations.

Look at the electoral map in 2024.

  • Republicans have a great opening to win back the Senate — Dems hold 23 of the 33 Senate seats in 2024. But the GOP needs electable nominees in the swing states.
  • This election showed that Trump and Trump-like candidates turn off independent voters in eminently winnable places. 

What we're watching: With Trump running, the pressure to back him in primaries — or face consequences — will be intense and omnipresent.

  • Given the dominance of activists in primaries, there's a good chance of more Dr. Oz-type candidates.

What we're hearing: Republican operatives fear Trump is so damaged with the general-election electorate that he could lose to a Democrat — even during a recession.

  • Another fear GOP operatives have: If Trump loses in the primary, he could sabotage the winner either by running as a third-party candidate — or trashing the winning nominee relentlessly and turning off his voters.

Zoom in: In '24, Democrats will be defending 23 of the 33 Senate seats in play. Holding those Democratic seats will mean winning in a raft of red and purple states:

  • Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

What's next: Waiting in the wings are a bunch of MAGA-aligned candidates who could struggle with independent voters.

  • Rep. Alex Mooney, a hardline conservative, is challenging Sen. Joe Manchin. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is also expected to run, after losing to Manchin in his last election.
  • In Arizona, Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Andy Biggs is often touted as a potential candidate. His far-right posture is reminiscent of the two losing Arizona GOP nominees in 2022 — Kari Lake and Blake Masters.
Go deeper