The Daily Telegraph
Republicans question wisdom of giving ex-president the limelight
Two months from the midterm elections in which they are trying to flip both the House and Senate, the Republicans are at a crossroads: what to do about Donald Trump?
The Trump team has this weekend been briefing that he wants to play a more active role in campaigning before the vote in November. The question is whether having him on board will help or hurt the GOP’S chances.
To a core group, he represents the only solution to America’s woes. To a broader spectrum of more moderate Republicans, he is a problem: blinded grievances from the 2020 election, the subject of a number of serious criminal investigations, and tearing the party apart with his divisive rhetoric.
On Saturday night he appeared on stage in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania – which he won in 2016, but lost in 2020 – to galvanise support for Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz and governor candidate Doug Mastriano.
But like a dog to a bone, he launched into general election mode, even teasing another White House run, telling an enthralled crowd of 8,000: “I may just have to do it again.”
The difficulty for party leaders is that the next election is in two months, not two years, and they need Trump to focus on their line – that Democrats are to blame for rising crime and inflation.
Instead, Saturday night turned into a sermon on how he had been wronged.
Mr Trump’s grip on party members is still strong and his endorsement record speaks to that, with 93 per cent of his preferred candidates winning their primaries so far.
Many – like 2020 result denier Mr Mastriano – are fully committed, but observers note even Dr Oz, who was so grateful to Mr Trump on Saturday night, actually removed the former President’s name from the top of his website after securing the nomination.
Recent polls show that most of the candidates Mr Trump backed are now trailing their Democrat rivals for the actual seat in office. Joe Biden’s party is now polling four points higher, when in July the two parties were tied.
Quietly, many GOP strategists wonder if the best thing Mr Trump could do for the party ahead of the midterms is stay out of the limelight.