Trump’s Endorsements: The Senate

The Trump endorsement may be the most powerful endorsement in politics. How are his picks shaping the 2022 elections for US Senate?


Former President Donald Trump has used the power of his endorsement (and when he had it, his Twitter feed) to sway Republican primaries since he was sworn in in 2017. His endorsement has shaped Republican primaries for House, Senate, and governors’ offices across the country. Trump has already issued dozens of endorsements for the 2022 cycle. Who are his candidates? Are they likely to win? Part 1 of this series assessed Trump’s influence in governor’s elections.

Part 2 will look at the races for US Senate.

How Powerful was Trump’s Endorsement When He Was President?

2017-2018 primaries: 3/5 (60%)

Trump made an unusual double endorsement of Evan Jenkins and Patrick Morrisey (the eventual winner) in the primary election to face West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. His other picks, Mitt Romney (UT) and John James (MI), both won their primaries easily. In the 2017 Alabama special election, Trump got behind appointed Sen. Luther Strange but Strange lost to Roy Moore in the primary runoff.

2017-2018 contested or open-seat general elections: 8/18 (44%)

The 2018 midterms were rough for Republicans. Incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (NV) lost reelection. Trump-endorsed challengers John James (MI), Karin Housley (MN), Matt Rosendale (MT), Bob Hugin (NJ), Jim Renacci (OH), Lou Barletta (PA), Patrick Morrisey (WV) and Leah Vukmir (WI) were all defeated. Trump’s pick in the 2017 Alabama special election, alleged serial sexual harasser Roy Moore, lost in a massive upset.

Trump did have some victories. Trump backed Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), Marsha Blackburn (TN) and Mitt Romney (UT), who won open-seat races, and Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), who won reelection narrowly. Trump-supported challengers Mike Braun (IN), Rick Scott (FL), Josh Hawley (MO), and Kevin Cramer (ND) all defeated Democratic incumbents.

2020 primary elections – 4/4 (100%)

All four of Trump’s picks in contested Senate primaries – Bill Hagerty (TN), Martha McSally (AZ), Corky Messner (NH), and Tommy Tuberville (AL) – were victorious.

2020-2021 competitive or open-seat general elections – 7/14 (50%)

Trump gave his imprimatur to seven incumbents facing competitive general elections. Sens. Joni Ernst (IA), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Thom Tillis (NC) all won their general elections. Incumbent Sens. Martha McSally (AZ) and Cory Gardner (CO) were defeated on Election Night. Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were defeated in a January 5, 2021 runoff election after Trump’s rallies promoting his false claims of a stolen election depressed turnout in North Georgia, costing Republicans both seats and control of the US Senate.

He backed seven non-incumbents that cycle. Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), and Bill Hagerty (TN) won open-seat races in GOP states. Tommy Tuberville (AL) defeated Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. John James (MI), Corky Messner (NH), and Jason Lewis (MN) lost their races to the Democratic incumbent. The former president also backed ten incumbents who were safe bets to win both their primary and general elections.

The Trump Record – Senate

Primaries – 7/9 (78%)

General elections – 15/32 (47%)

Trump’s 2022 Candidates

GOP Senators Facing a Primary Challenge

Arkansas: Lowkey Sen. John Boozman is the target of Army veteran and former New England Patriots practice squad player Jake Bequette. Boozman is banking on Trump’s support to win his primary, while Bequette’s campaign is funded by wealthy GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein.

Challenger to a GOP Incumbent

Alaska: Trump is supporting Kelly Tshibaka in her quest to oust moderate GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski as payback for Murkowski’s vote to impeach Trump for his role in the 2021 Capitol riot. Murkowski has a hefty fundraising advantage over Tshibaka and the state’s unusual top-four jungle primary will likely benefit the incumbent.

Challengers to an Incumbent Democrat

Georgia: Heisman Trophy winner and University of Georgia football star Hershel Walker is Trump’s man to take on Sen. Raphael Warnock, who beat Trump’s pick in the 2021 special election. Walker is a fundraising powerhouse and polls competitively against Warnock.

Nevada: Defeated 2018 gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt polls competitively against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto but Republicans have not won a Senate race in the Silver State since 2012.

Open Seat Races

Alabama: Trump quickly endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks after he entered the race for retiring Sen. Richard Shelby’s seat. Brooks’ shabby poll numbers and poor fundraising led him to pull his support rather than suffer a defeat, although the former president claimed Brooks, who gave a fiery speech at the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally immediately before the Capitol riot, had gone “woke.” Trump may endorse one of the two other leading candidates, Katie Britt and Mike Durant, before the May primary.

North Carolina: Trump’s pick, Rep. Ted Budd, trailed ex-Gov. Pat McCrory in polling for much of 2021, but he’s recently pulled ahead and seems likely to win the primary election in the GOP-leaning Tar Heel State.

Ohio: Trump got behind author, venture capitalist and onetime “Never Trumper” J.D. Vance weeks before Ohio’s May 3 primary. The populist Vance faces four other competitors – banker Mike Gibbons, ex-Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, ex-Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken and state Sen. Matt Dolan – in the wide-open race to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R).

Pennsylvania: Trump’s first pick, veteran Sean Parnell, withdrew from the race in 2021 after he lost custody of his children in a messy divorce case. His second pick is celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz. Oz and his top rival, businessman Dave McCormick, are locked in an expensive battle for the GOP nomination and either one (or a third candidate like author Kathy Barnette) could emerge victorious from the May 17 primary election.

The Safe Bets

Trump endorsed nine senators who face little primary opposition and are likely to cruise in the general election: Mike Crapo (ID); Chuck Grassley (IA); Ron Johnson (WI); John Kennedy (LA); Mike Lee (UT); Jerry Moran (KS); Rand Paul (KY); Marco Rubio (FL); Tim Scott (SC).

Other Races

Although he has not yet endorsed a candidate, Trump attacked Arizona Senate frontrunner Mark Brnovich, the state attorney general, for not doing enough to investigate Trump’s dubious, fact-free claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Trump blamed on Brnovich for his loss in the traditionally Republican state, a convenient excuse for the former president, the first Republican to lose Arizona in a presidential election since 1996.

Trump’s decision to bash the frontrunner likely means he will back one of the lesser-known candidates in the primary who perform worse in head-to-head matchups with Sen. Mark Kelly (D). Trump has not yet endorsed in one contested safe-seat primary: the special election in Oklahoma to fill the seat of resigning Sen. Jim Inhofe (R).

The former president has not yet made his pick in three other primaries where the GOP nominee is challenging a vulnerable incumbent senator: Colorado, New Hampshire, and Washington. Keep an eye out for those endorsements as their primary elections draw closer.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022