The good thing about having a narcissistic sociopath as the de facto head of the Republican Party is that he thinks he’s on the ballot even if he isn’t technically on the presidential ballot. Donald Trump is using the 2022 midterms as a way to show himself as the kingmaker he believes he is, and this may be the best thing to happen to the Democrats since Trump helped elect two Democratic senators in the state of Georgia. Trump’s endorsements are a mess, chockablock with badly vetted people he knows from television. As Republican hopefuls go to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring and beg for an endorsement, Trump continues to behave in his usual odd and chaotic way. Explaining to an adviser why he was weighing in on the Pennsylvania-senate primary, per the The Washington Post, Trump said, “I’m a gambler.”
Still, Trump’s interested in results. He even went so far as to un-endorse Alabama Senate hopeful and January 6 rally speaker Representative Mo Brooks, after polls showed him lagging two others in the primary—although the reason Trump gave was that Brooks “went ‘woke.’” As always with Trump, it’s impossible to know the exact truth, but it’s a fair bet he’s not telling it.
Many of Trump’s advisers begged him not to get involved in Pennsylvania’s Senate primary, because the conventional wisdom says that Trump’s wacky, far-right personal brand doesn’t play well in purple suburbs. (That’s why Glenn Youngkin tried to keep him at arm’s length during his winning bid against former Governor Terry McAuliffe in Virginia last year.) But the Senate primary simply proved too tempting for him as it evolved into a race to see who could be the Trumpiest: David McCormick went full MAGA after Trump’s first endorsee—combat vet and thriller writer Sean Parnell, against whom allegations of domestic violence surfaced last fall—dropped out after his estranged wife was granted sole legal custody of their children. But though McCormick hired Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller, and Cliff Sims to advise him, Trump still awarded his (second) endorsement to TV doctor Mehmet Cengiz Oz—which makes sense, because Trump played a successful businessman on TV.
Still, the Dr. Oz endorsement surprised and irritated some in the Fox ecosystem. Laura Ingraham told Kellyanne Conway, “I think it was a mistake for Trump to endorse Oz. I’ll say it, I’m not afraid to say it.”
Another less-than-fully-vetted celebrity Senate candidate whom Trump has recently gotten behind is Georgia’s Herschel Walker, a former football player who has lied about his academic record and, according to an Associated Press report from last summer, has been accused by his ex-wife of threatening violence against her. The AP also reported that Walker has made “outsize claims about his business record.” Even the conservative National Review ran with the AP’s story. Walker will likely face off against Raphael Warnock, who raised $13.6 million, more than double Walker’s haul, in the first three months of this year.
We haven’t even gotten to J. D. Vance, the fancy Ohio Never Trumper turned Marjorie Taylor Greene bestie whom Trump endorsed last week. (Vance recently defended MTG for speaking at a white-nationalist conference, saying, “She said nothing wrong, and I’m absolutely not going to throw her under the bus, or anybody else who’s a friend of mine.”) Josh Mandel is leading in the Ohio GOP Senate polls, but according to Axios, “Trump was soured by clips of a near-physical debate altercation last month between Mandel and another rival, investment banker Mike Gibbons.” Also, in February, a source told the Daily Beast that “the [former] president has used the term ‘fucking weird’ to describe Josh Mandel more than once.” In any case, Vance will get campaign support from Mark Meadows’s favorite texting buddy, Don Junior.
Trump’s Trumpiest endorsement might be in a non-Senate race: He’s supporting Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, who faces allegations of sexual assault, according to an investigation by the Nebraska Examiner. One eyewitness recounted to the Examiner, “While introducing himself to one of the women, [Herbster] started to hug her. He then moved his hands down to her buttocks and deliberately and aggressively grabbed them.” Not a dealbreaker, clearly, for an ex-president who himself has accrued dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct.
In Alaska, there’s also a Donald Trump–Mitch McConnell showdown brewing, with Trump having endorsed Kelly Tshibaka against sitting Senator Lisa Murkowski, for whom a McConnell-affiliated super PAC has put aside millions of dollars in ad placements. (Murkowski won as a write-in candidate in 2010, so it’s hard to imagine her losing now. Advantage McConnell?)
And finally, in North Carolina, Trump has endorsed Representative Ted Budd for Richard Burr’s Senate seat, and Budd seems to be pulling ahead against former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. That primary happens in May.
Democrats face considerable headwinds these midterms—voters are mad about COVID, inflation, and whatever else they’re mad about. But Trump’s terrible judgment could save the Senate for Democrats and perhaps even free the GOP from Trump’s death grip. It’s a long shot, but it might be democracy’s best hope.