By Paul Bedard, Washington Secrets Columnist
For anyone questioning former President Donald Trump’s lock on the Republican Party after his 2020 loss, look no further than the impact his endorsement packs.
In new polling of several House Republican primary races, a Trump endorsement pushes 2022 candidates past 50%, even against long-established incumbents such as Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney.
“The Trump endorsement is a true dagger,” said Zachary Moyle of SoCo Strategies. “Trump is the king of kingmakers.”
In last month’s elections, for example, Trump-endorsed candidates went four for four.
And according to Brian Jack, the former White House political director, Trump’s 2020 record was 120-2, and this year, it is 17-1.
“Results don’t lie,” he said. “The power of President Trump’s endorsement is undeniable.”
Still, some Trump Senate picks in the 2022 cycle are struggling so far, but the primaries are months away. What’s more, Trump hasn’t set a campaign rally schedule yet, though he has continued to issue endorsements, making several in House races last week alone.
Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, now a Trump critic and head of John Bolton SuperPAC, recently did his own surveying and found “weakening” support for candidates backed by the former president.
And Politico wrote, “Trump may still have an iron grip on the Republican Party, but the limits of his powers are being exposed in 2022 Senate primaries.”
But it’s hard to argue with Trump’s record and the potential for more victories.
Moyle surveyed five races to test the initial impact of a Trump endorsement. What he found in Wyoming, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Washington surprised him.
“What I can say is that I was pretty shocked by the high numbers. I had thought Trump would be a significant influence, but after looking at these five races, the power he wields in these primaries is somewhat unprecedented,” he said.
Moyle tested the Trump endorsement on two ballots in the states. One was head-to-head. For the other, he would reveal which candidate had Trump’s backing.
In Wyoming, Cheney’s challenger Harriet Hageman started ahead, with 40% to Cheney’s 18%. Informed that Trump endorsed Hageman, her lead increased, with 56% to Cheney’s 18%.
Another Trump-related element was impeachment. When Republicans were told that the incumbent had chosen to impeach Trump, over 6 in 10 said they would vote against them. In Cheney’s case, 79% of Republicans said they would “refuse” to back her because of her impeachment vote.
Trump’s popularity is also high among Republicans, even gaining since Inauguration Day in many states, and that strengthens his impact. In four of the five states, Moyle found that Trump had a 70% or higher approval rating among Republicans. In Wyoming, it was 63%.
“Donald Trump is still the head of the Republican Party,” Moyle said.
“It appears to be very clear that even in a saturated field of candidates, there is little chance for an anti-Trump Republican to compete. Trump’s endorsement would propel most any candidate to a Republican primary victory,” he added.
Longtime GOP pollster and pundit Dick Morris agreed. He said, “It is the most important endorsement there is. It virtually assures a primary victory. As such, it has few parallels in American history.”
And that’s the bottom line, Moyle said. In Wyoming, for example, voters may still be angry with Cheney’s impeachment vote or her participation on the Jan. 6 riot committee, but it’s Trump who appears to matter more.
“The reason Hageman is up so high is only partly due to Cheney. It’s that big fat endorsement that is the bigger reason,” he said.
Moyle added, “For now, one thing is clear, which is that Trump’s endorsement does likely equal a victory in any Republican primary. The 2022 midterm elections, like it or not, will be heavily influenced by Trump again.”