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Rodimer at a Nevada event in 2020. ( (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A Texas congressional candidate is drawing Team Trump's ire with ads designed to falsely imply the ex-president's backing.

Why it matters: Donald Trump endorsements are the hottest commodity in Republican politics right now, and candidates are going to extreme lengths to court his support. But there's no quicker way to irk Trump than freeloading on his brand.

What's happening: "Big Dan" Rodimer, a former professional wrestler, is one of 23 candidates in a special election in Texas' sixth district. With less than two weeks to go in that contest, he's running ads that imply (without directly saying) that he has Trump's backing.

  • “Our campaign is the only one that has ever been endorsed by President Trump in this race," Rodimer declared in a statement this week.
  • His campaign has been running a host of digital ads making a nearly identical claim and calling Rodimer "the Trump candidate."

Between the lines: Trump did endorse Rodimer when he ran for a House seat in Nevada last year. But he has not backed a candidate in the Texas's special election.

What they're saying: After Axios reached out to Team Trump about those ads, spokesperson Jason Miller posted this on Twitter:

  • "🚨 Important Note 🚨," Miller tweeted. "President Trump has NOT yet endorsed a candidate in TX-6. This is a very strong pro-Trump district and President Trump is the most powerful endorsement in all of politics, but he has not yet weighed in."
  • The Rodimer campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The bottom line: Trump is famously protective of his brand — and averse to anyone trying to benefit from it without his authorization. Two sources close to the former president uniformly panned the Rodimer ads.

  • “It’s not a smart move to imply you have President Trump’s endorsement in a race when you don’t have it,” one said.
  • "The consultants who recommend their clients engage in these sorts of activities aren't doing their clients any favors with Trump, Trump's family, or anyone in Trump's orbit," said the other.

Go deeper

Trump's Republican critics rake in cash

Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger during the first Jan. 6 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Republican critics of Donald Trump have raked in campaign cash this year as their votes to impeach the former president and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have put them in the crosshairs of Trump and his allies.

Why it matters: The 2022 midterms won't just determine which party controls Congress. They're also shaping up to be a test of Trump's continued hold on the GOP. The few remaining Republican dissenters in Washington need to put up big fundraising numbers if they hope to stave off a purge.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jul 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Jonathan Karl's Trump book

Cover: Dutton

In a sequel to his bestselling "Front Row at the Trump Show," ABC News' Jonathan Karl will be out Nov. 16 with "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show." You're seeing the cover here for the first time.

Driving the news: The publisher says Karl "tells the story of Trump’s downfall, complete with riveting behind-the-scenes accounts of some of the darkest days in the history of the American presidency," and on-record interviews "with central figures ... telling their stories for the first time."

Trump's tax returns must be released to Congress, DOJ says

President Trump at the end of a rally to support Republican Senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia on December 5, 2020. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

The Treasury Department "must" release former President Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Department of Justice said in a memo Friday.

The big picture: The DOJ memo comes after a long dispute between the committee, which first sought to obtain the former president's returns two years ago, and Trump, who fought to keep his finances private.