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Republicans worry Trump’s launch could upend Georgia's Senate race

Former President Trump’s expected announcement tonight of a presidential bid has many Republicans none too happy as they turn their attention to boosting Herschel Walker in next month’s Georgia Senate runoff. 

 Trump has been itching to bust through the gates and make his third presidential bid in as many cycles official. He has an announcement scheduled for 9 p.m. at his Mar-a-Lago resort. 

 But the expected move has baffled Trump allies and other Republicans alike as the political world focuses in on Georgia, where Walker is set to take on Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) on Dec. 6. 

 “No, it doesn’t help,” one GOP strategist with Trump World ties told The Hill. “The 2022 midterms are not over and anything that takes away the ability to fundraise, to get the message out there, to keep the media and the journalists focused on this race, is bad for the Republican Party as a whole.” 

 Jason Miller, a top adviser to the former president, said late last week that Trump should push back his official foray into the 2024 GOP primary, telling Newsmax that “priorities A, B and C need to be about Herschel right now.”  

 “This is bigger than anything else in the country. We’ve got to show the focus is on Georgia,” Miller said.  

 A day later, however, Miller said Trump would indeed move ahead with the campaign reveal and that it will be “a very professional, very buttoned-up announcement.” 

 Miller is not alone in having concerns. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also said to be considering a presidential bid, on Monday tweeted the GOP should have “one focus” — helping out Walker — and added that he is “all in.”  

 The chatter surrounding Trump’s planned announcement comes with three weeks to go until the Georgia race, in which Walker is a minor underdog against the incumbent Democrat. Warnock topped Walker by 35,000 votes, or about 0.9 percentage points, in last week’s contest but was unable to eclipse the necessary 50 percent marker to avoid a runoff.  

Republicans are still wondering what Trump’s involvement in the race will be, but the former president is almost certain to be a factor. 

Ahead of runoffs in the state in January 2021, Trump held two rallies to support then-Sens. David Perdue (R) and Kelly Loeffler (R) — who went on to lose to Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) and Warnock, respectively.  

Some Republicans blamed Trump for the losses, believing his claims of a rigged and stolen presidential election prompted potential GOP voters to stay home. 

Now, as some Republicans in part blame Trump again for the party’s underwhelming showing in the midterm elections, the level of Trump’s involvement could be telling, including whether MAGA Inc., his super PAC, will spend to boost Walker.  

MAGA Inc. spent $3.4 million on ads supporting Walker in the final month of the campaign. By contrast, Trump’s Save America PAC spent $4.4 million on ads targeting Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) ahead of his primary romp this year over Perdue.  

 “That PAC needs to be spending a ton of money to help in Georgia,” the strategist with Trump World ties said. “This race cannot come down to Trump versus Warnock, and the more forward facing he puts himself into the race, the more it becomes Trump vs Warnock or the media rather than Walker vs Warnock or the media. That’s the race we’re trying to win right now. 

 “I haven’t heard of any Republican who wants Trump to step up in a forward-facing way to get involved in the Georgia election,” the strategist added. 

 Adding to the GOP’s issues in the Peach State, the contest will no longer determine control of the Senate, diminishing the stakes — and the incentive for some Republicans to go to the polls. 

Democrats retained the Senate majority over the weekend when Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) defeated former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R).  

 Walker also will also be bereft of the benefit of having Kemp on top of the ticket. Kemp defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams last week to win reelection and cleared 50 percent, meaning that Walker will not have the governor’s coattails atop the ticket as he did last week. 

 “Why would it possibly be more favorable for Herschel in the first week of December?” one GOP operative said about the looming runoff. “Warnock has never trailed on a ballot the 3 times voters have been presented with him as a general election candidate for Senate.” 

 Some Republicans argue that Trump sidestepping the Georgia race would be foolhardy, as Walker still needs any and all supporters in the ruby-red rural counties to turn out for him, something Trump can help with. They also say Trump delaying his launch is unrealistic given that lawmakers are calling for leadership elections to be pushed back or conducted on time because of the runoff. 

“I would make an argument that it can be helpful. The Trump factor in this is baked in,” said a second GOP operative with Trump ties. “It’s not like voters are like, ‘Oh I wonder if Herschel Walker and Donald Trump are connected.’ It’s not like you can separate the two, so why not get the benefit of it?” 

 “I don’t think it’s fair for everyone to leverage Georgia for their own political interests and not expect to do the same,” the operative added.

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