TRUM­PET­ING TRUMP Repub­li­can can­di­dates pre­dict loy­alty to pres­i­dent will pay off

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGHLIN

Un­de­terred by elec­tion losses, a spate of con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates are wrap­ping them­selves in the Trump man­tle, be­liev­ing the loy­alty they have shown the pres­i­dent will pay off at the bal­lot box next year.

From Vir­ginia to Ari­zona, con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans who lost pri­maries in the past are hon­ing their next cam­paigns along the lines of Mr. Trump’s icon­o­clas­tic run last year, fig­ur­ing he has blazed a new path for vic­tory.

Nowhere is that more true than in Ne­vada, where Danny Tarka­nian is hop­ing the sixth time is the charm as he seeks to un­seat Sen. Dean Heller, a fel­low Repub­li­can who he says turned his back on Mr. Trump and his “Amer­ica First” agenda.

“I sup­ported Pres­i­dent Trump all the way through the end of the cam­paign last elec­tion — that was an un­pop­u­lar po­si­tion for many,” Mr. Tarka­nian told The Wash­ing­ton Times this week. “I stood on an is­land by my­self here in Ne­vada.”

Since 2004, Mr. Tarka­nian, the son of the late leg­endary UNLV bas­ket­ball coach Jerry Tarka­nian, has run for the Ne­vada Se­nate, Ne­vada sec­re­tary of state, the U.S. Se­nate and the U.S. House twice.

He nearly ended his los­ing streak last year when he lost one of those House races to Demo­crat Jacky Rosen by a sin­gle per­cent­age point — af­ter stick­ing with Mr. Trump the whole time.

Now he wants to turn his cam­paign loose on Mr. Heller, say­ing the in­cum­bent isn’t do­ing enough to back Mr. Trump in the Se­nate.

“The rea­son so many have en­cour­aged me to run against Dean Heller is be­cause I sup­ported Pres­i­dent Trump and Dean Heller has not,” Mr. Tarka­nian said.

Mr. Tarka­nian said Mr. Heller has re­cently be­gun try­ing to re­pair the gap with Mr. Trump by point­ing to Heller-backed bills that the pres­i­dent has signed and by re­veal­ing that he did in fact vote for Mr. Trump in last year’s elec­tion.

But the se­na­tor this week crit­i­cized Mr. Trump’s par­don of for­mer Mari­copa County, Ari­zona, Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio, and told NBC he is not ea­ger to force a govern­ment shut­down over fund­ing for a bor­der wall.

Tommy Fer­raro, a Heller cam­paign spokesman, said Mr. Heller is “com­mit­ted to ad­vanc­ing the con­ser­va­tive agenda.”

“Dean voted for the Oba­macare re­peal ef­fort that the pres­i­dent backed, con­tin­ues to play a crit­i­cal role in craft­ing a tax re­form pro­posal that the pres­i­dent en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sup­ports, and is ded­i­cated to work­ing with the ad­min­is­tra­tion on an in­fra­struc­ture bill that will boost growth and job cre­ation in Ne­vada and through­out the coun­try,” Mr. Fer­raro said. “Danny Tarka­nian is a peren­nial can­di­date who has lost five races span­ning over more than a decade.”

Mr. Trump has not weighed in on the Ne­vada race, but he has taken sides in a Repub­li­can pri­mary in Alabama, where Sen. Luther Strange is in a runoff with for­mer state Chief Jus­tice Roy Moore.

Mr. Trump also has given a boost to Kelly Ward, a for­mer Ari­zona state se­na­tor who, af­ter los­ing a pri­mary to Sen. John McCain last year, now hopes to un­seat Sen. Jeff Flake, also a Repub­li­can.

At a rally in Ari­zona last week, Mr. Trump said Mr. Flake was “weak on bor­ders, weak on crime.”

Mr. Trump won the White House by iden­ti­fy­ing and turn­ing out disaf­fected vot­ers, tap­ping so­cial me­dia, and pick­ing feuds with Repub­li­cans, Democrats, the press, celebri­ties and even av­er­age Amer­i­cans who he felt had wronged him.

Run­ning to­ward Mr. Trump ap­pears to be a good move in Alabama, where a Harper Polling sur­vey re­leased Tues­day found a plu­ral­ity of Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers said their chief goal was to find a se­na­tor who shows “strong sup­port for Pres­i­dent Trump.”

How far Trump coat­tails can take can­di­dates, though, re­mains to be seen.

“My in­stant im­pres­sion is they might, and I would un­der­line might, pre­vail in a pri­mary given a mood of the elec­torate, but would have much more dif­fi­cult times in a gen­eral elec­tion,” said Char­lie Gerow, a Repub­li­can Party strate­gist. “It could be sim­i­lar to what we saw a few years back in Delaware, Mis­souri and In­di­ana, where you had can­di­dates who were not nec­es­sar­ily the best gen­eral elec­tion can­di­date pre­vail in pri­maries.”

An early test of Trump­ism was in the June Repub­li­can gov­er­nor’s pri­mary in Vir­ginia, where Corey Ste­wart — chair­man of the Prince Wil­liam County Board of Su­per­vi­sors and a vet­eran of the Trump cam­paign — just missed out on up­set­ting Ed Gille­spie, a long­time lob­by­ist, party chair­man and senior ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Now Mr. Ste­wart says he will take the Trump mo­men­tum into a new race, run­ning next year against Sen. Tim Kaine, the Demo­cratic in­cum­bent.

Mr. Ste­wart, who chaired the Trump cam­paign in Vir­ginia be­fore get­ting fired for protest­ing the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, said his un­wa­ver­ing sup­port for Mr. Trump has helped him reach out to vot­ers in the ru­ral part of the state and raise money for his cam­paign.

“It con­tin­ues to help, es­pe­cially in fundrais­ing, as peo­ple want to know: What kind of Repub­li­can are you? And I ex­press my sup­port for Trump and they kind of know. It is an im­me­di­ate brand.”

Mr. Ste­wart said Mr. Trump has moved the party away from the “blue-blood men­tal­ity that was kind of snotty and epit­o­mized by Mitt Rom­ney” and from fights over who is the most con­ser­va­tive on life, guns and taxes.

“That has given way to a Trumpian move­ment, which is more de­fined by at­ti­tude than by pol­icy po­si­tions,” he said. “It is more about telling the es­tab­lish­ment to ‘Go to hell.’ I was look­ing for a more po­lite way to say that, but there re­ally isn’t one.”

Ford O’Con­nell, a Repub­li­can Party strate­gist, said that ap­proach can work, at least within the pri­maries.

“What they un­der­stand is very sim­i­lar — that re­gard­less of the mishaps and some of the things that Trump has said, his agenda is very pop­u­lar and vot­ers agree with Trump’s agenda in those states,” he said. “So bear-hug­ging Trump is a good thing, but at the same time you have to show your­self as be­ing ca­pa­ble of win­ning a gen­eral elec­tion.”

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