Trump absorbs GOP losses, while DeSantis shines with landslide victory

Trump absorbs GOP losses, while DeSantis shines with landslide victory

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A likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 had a triumphant evening on Tuesday, and it wasn’t Donald Trump.

The former president spent the final days of the campaign lambasting and even threatening Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose apparent interest in running against Trump intrigued him, according to advisers who spoke under the guise of anonymity to reflect private conversations. The Florida governor did not retaliate, except to hold his own campaign event on Saturday, competing with a Trump rally in Miami and further angering the former president.

On election night, however, it was DeSantis who held the exuberant victory party, after winning re-election in a 20-point landslide, nearly 15 points better than Trump’s 2020 margin in their state. of shared origin. At the party, DeSantis supporters chanted “Two more years!” – encouraging the governor to run for president before completing his second term.

Trump’s own watch party, on the other hand, was diminished by a tropical storm rolling through his Mar-a-Lago resort, which was in a mandatory evacuation zone Wednesday morning. Trump spoke briefly Tuesday night to thank reporters for attending, brag about his winning record and congratulate a few Republican candidates who had won or were leading. But not DeSantis.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if we were better at the general election than at the [primary] nominations,” Trump mused, as if still processing the results himself. He spent Tuesday night among longtime advisers and donors who, like other Republicans, expected a better showing on Tuesday.

After leaving the stage, Trump took to his social media site Truth Social to applaud the fall of Republican Senate hopefuls Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and Joe O’Dea in Colorado, whose victories could have propelled the party towards a majority which remained uncertain on Tuesday. night.

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Tuesday’s full table of results has yet to be finalized, and Trump has won several victories with several of his favorite candidates in marquee Senate races, such as Ted Budd in North Carolina and JD Vance in Ohio. (Vance, in particular, thanked dozens people in his victory speech, but not Trump.) Still, the results were shaping up to be mixed for Republicans, not the outburst that Trump hoped to take credit for before quickly announcing his own candidacy in 2024.

“The quality of candidates matters,” Erick Erickson, a longtime GOP commentator, said of what he described as a disappointing performance for Trump. “They weren’t good candidates. They had more allegiance to him than anything else. The GOP could still win both [chambers] but it’s not the night they expected.

Trump allies acknowledged that early returns fell short of high expectations — but remained optimistic about the GOP’s chances of taking full control of Congress.

“As President Trump looks to the future, he will continue to defend his America First agenda which won overwhelmingly at the polls,” his spokesman Taylor Budowich said. He called Trump’s win-loss record for endorsements “a truly unprecedented achievement and something only possible because of President Trump’s ability to pick and elect the winners.”

DeSantis’ allies trumpeted his resounding re-election Tuesday as a sign that the GOP’s national energy is behind him. The governor beat Democrat Charlie Crist and looked set to win Miami-Dade County, which hasn’t been claimed by a Republican since former Governor Jeb Bush in 2002.

Still, it wasn’t just DeSantis among potential Trump challengers who looked emboldened Tuesday night, rather than being bullied into clearing the ground for Trump. Senator Tim Scott (RS.C.) used his victory speech to hint at his own potential ambitions, saying he wished his grandfather had ‘lived long enough to maybe see another man of color elected President of the United States”.

And Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin appeared on Fox News, giving a nod to his own aspirations. “Looks like you’ve thought about it,” Fox host Brett Baier said of a run for the White House. Youngkin replied, “Well, I appreciate it. I’m still humble on this discussion.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who won re-election after surviving a primary challenge encouraged by Trump and well ahead of Trump-chosen Senate nominee Herschel Walker on Tuesday, took an unusual jab at Trump in his victory speech . He slammed “presidents, current and former” for criticizing his early decision to lift pandemic restrictions.

Midterms are inevitably a referendum on which party is in power, but Trump has also made it this year. Although he himself was not on the ballot, the “Trump ticket” was, as he called his list of approved candidates in key states. How these candidates fare as the votes are tallied will certainly fuel divisions within the Republican Party over the electoral viability of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement after the losses of 2018 and 2020.

Their success would encourage hardliners to press ahead with revamping the party in Trump’s image, while the loss of winnable seats would add to concerns that Trump’s hold on the party is hampering his chances with independents and swing voters deciding close elections.

“Trump’s candidates have been a drag on the party and the message of all of our candidates,” said New Jersey Republican National Committee member and Trump critic Bill Palatucci, who said Democrats wanted to send a message against Trump. and his supporters even though he was not on the ballot. “We constantly had to move away from their support for the former president.”

Trump has been by far the biggest influence in the GOP primaries this cycle, with about 82% of his endorsed candidates (not counting incumbents) winning, according to a Washington Post analysis. In some cases, Trump has rushed to jump on board with candidates already on track to win, like Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. But for others, like Mehmet Oz’s senior Senate squeaker in the same state, Trump’s support was clearly decisive. But on Tuesday night, Mastriano was expected to lose dramatically and Oz trailed in a tight race.

Trump was looking to claim credit for Republican gains, with his team pointing to his 30 rallies, 50 in-person fundraisers, 60 tele-rallys and robocalls, and more than $16 million in Super PAC ads for offices across the country. statewide in crucial states.

“Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit,” he said in an interview published Tuesday with the NewsNation network. “If they lose, I shouldn’t be blamed at all.”

Trump was determined to grab the spotlight on Tuesday night, throwing a big party in a gilded ballroom at his club, inviting current and former advisers to see him speak flanked by flags. He planned to interview staff later this week and had scheduled his presidential announcement for next week, according to several advisers.

Expecting a Republican wave, Trump wanted to go so far as to declare his candidacy for president before Election Day, according to people familiar with the talks. But advisers dissuaded him, arguing he could be drowned out by other news or blamed for mobilizing Democratic turnout.

While advisers managed to push back a formal announcement, Trump became increasingly explicit about his intentions, telling his supporters they would be “so happy” “very soon” and finally, at a rally on Monday, promising a “very special announcement” for the next Tuesday, November 15.

Part of his urgency, advisers said, stemmed from his desire to pressure other Republicans to line up behind him and clear the field of potential rivals, especially DeSantis.

Trump has set his sights on DeSantis more than other potential 2024 rivals, watching his large crowds and growing frustrated with his positive media coverage – while calling him ungrateful for Trump’s support in his 2018 campaign , say his allies. He tested many nicknames and attacks before landing on ‘Ron DeSanctimonious’ last week; advisers said the reception was mixed and he did not use it again this weekend.

On Monday night, Trump attacked DeSantis as he spoke to reporters on his plane and even threatened to release damaging information about him if he showed up.

“If he showed up, I’ll tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anyone other than maybe his wife, who is really running his campaign,” Trump told a small group of reporters, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“I think if he runs he could hurt himself a lot,” he said.


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