Trump pulls strings behind the scenes to help loyal 2022 candidates

Earlier this month, the former President enlisted the help of North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn to persuade former Rep. Mark Walker to end his campaign for Senate and instead run for the House, which could help Trump’s preferred candidate in the GOP Senate primary, Rep. Ted Budd, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump has also had conversations in recent weeks with MAGA-aligned Republicans who are considering challenging GOP governors with whom he has grown disillusioned. The former President urged former Georgia Sen. David Perdue to run against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, who resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn his narrow 2020 loss in the state to then-candidate Joe Biden. And he has been receptive to the prospect of Alabama Senate GOP candidate Lynda Blanchard challenging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.

The notoriously vengeful former President has told associates he blames Ivey for a decision by the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park Commission earlier this summer to prevent him from holding a July 3 rally aboard the retired World War II battleship.

Ex-presidents usually leave the limelight after leaving office, refraining from inserting themselves in their party primaries. But a person close to Trump likened the former President to the mob patriarch Vito Corleone in the “The Godfather” movie for his efforts to retaliate against Republicans who criticized him for inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol or for voting to pass Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. Trump has been “pulling strings behind the scenes and guiding candidates in the right direction,” this person said.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said the former President’s endorsement “is unquestionably the most powerful force in American politics” and that Trump continues to receive endorsement requests from Republican candidates up and down the ballot. “When he endorses candidates, they win,” Budowich told CNN in a statement, while declining to comment on Trump’s conversations with individual or prospective candidates.

US Senate seat in North Carolina

Cawthorn, a 26-year-old congressman who has positioned himself as a Trump acolyte on Capitol Hill, endorsed Walker’s Senate campaign in February, four months before Trump surprised attendees of North Carolina’s GOP convention with an endorsement of Rep. Ted Budd.

But at Trump’s request, Cawthorn recently called Walker to urge him to run for the House rather than continuing to challenge Budd in the GOP Senate primary, according to people familiar with the matter. Recent polls have shown Walker trailing Budd and former Gov. Pat McCrory, another GOP Senate candidate, and Budd’s supporters think that he could gain on McCrory if he doesn’t have to split votes with Walker.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a Republican from North Carolina, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, July 9, 2021.

Budd earned Trump’s endorsement after voting against the congressional certification of the 2020 election on January 6 and 7, and supporting a lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that sought to challenge the results of swing states Trump lost. (That case was rejected by the Supreme Court, which said Texas lacked standing to sue.)

Walker, who declined multiple requests for comment, is now considering running for the House,…

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