Friday, March 31, 2023

How Trump’s endorsement flip-flops affected the US Senate race in Alabama

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Huntsville, Ala. — Rep. Mo Brooks, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, plastered his campaign rallies with signs of “maga mo” and echoed Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

His opponent, Katie Britt, says there were “big problems” with the vote, but downplayed Trump’s baseless claim that it was stolen. He struggled to stay at the forefront of the race with the help of GOP leaders Trump ridiculed as “Rino”—the Republican in Name Only.

But in the lead up to Tuesday’s runoff, Trump is well behind Britt – who is regarded by local Republicans as the front-runner – and has sharply criticized Brooks, one of the most unusual findings for a primary fight this year. is one. The winner of the GOP nomination will begin the general election in this ruby-red state as an overwhelming favorite.

Trump’s endorsement in the 2022 Republican primary

A year ago, Trump’s choice seemed obvious: He backed Brooks, who once claimed he “led the charge” for rejecting Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. But as Brooks fell in the polls in March, Trump dropped him and raged at Congress’ suggestion that voters “look ahead” to 2022 and 2024, ultimately issuing last-minute support for the Brit.

The flip-flop and its results show how Trump’s freewheeling endorsement strategy has broken the GOP’s battle lines multiple times, forcing Fighting for his voters left some longtime allies and some staunch supporters of the former president disillusioned. His uneven record and some surprising selections have sparked debate among voters, strategists and even candidates about his hold on the movement he claims to lead.

In the final days of the race here in Alabama, Brooks has been accusing Trump of abandoning his political movement to pick a winner after humiliating defeats in other states.

“If I give my word to someone, I stick to it,” he told reporters after his Friday rally at Huntsville airport, days after telling an Alabama columnist that Trump was “to someone Or have no loyalty to anyone other than yourself.”

While awaiting a photo with Brooks at the event, Steve Henderson said he thought Trump would help the GOP by running for president in 2024. But after Trump’s reversal in the Senate race, the 60-year-old said, he’s not quite sure.

“People had more passion for Trump in the beginning,” echoed 76-year-old Sarah Williamson, who waited behind Henderson with camera in hand. “It’s like a wedding. You get emotional in the beginning, then things go wrong.”

“When things heat up, what comes out?” he said. “Truth… I think we see now who Trump is.”

A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Trump has posted a shaky record in the Republican primaries he has contested so far this year. His favorite candidates for governor were defeated in Georgia, Nebraska and Idaho, while he was successful in the US Senate primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he saw some candidates as inadequately conservative. A pair of primaries in South Carolina for the US House last week had mixed results for Trump.

Like other Republican primaries, Trump’s endorsement has long been seen in Alabama as a coveted ticket of approval. Former Republican Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne — who is friends with both Britt and Brooks, and declined to share his vote — recalled his first conversation with Britt about the Senate race. “Katie,” he said, “the first thing you need to do is go down and look at President Trump.,

Trump is popular in the state where he won 62 percent of the vote in 2020. Some political observers called for Brooks’ harsh words Former president can hurt Congressman in runoff.

But the ups and downs of the GOP primaries have also undermined Trump’s perception of him as the Republican kingmaker. Despite early Trump support, Brooks lost to rivals Britt and Mike Durant; The congressman got a second wind in the race after Trump jumped off the ship. And Britt won 44.7 percent of Brooks’ 29.2 percent of the vote in Alabama’s May 24 primary, triggering a top-two runoff because no candidate won a majority.

By the time Trump announced his new support on 10 June, Britta was widely Strategists and observers favor winning Tuesday’s runoff. David Hughes, a professor of political science at Auburn University in Montgomery, said the former CEO of Alabama’s Business Council represents the “business wing” of the GOP, but he also sought to chip in with Brooks’ dominance with the “grassroots populist” camp. work done.

Hughes and others noted that Britt has stayed away from statements that could fuel Trump’s anger and alienate his supporters – even as he appeals to voters who disproportionately view Trump. lets see.

“It would be another thing if Britt were on the campaign trail to, you know, really criticize Trump,” said Hughes, who directed the recent poll on the Alabama Senate race. “But she isn’t. She has been smart enough not to engage in such activities. Rhetoric. ,

According to former Congressman Byrne, even after Trump chose Brooks, Britt and his campaign maintained a relationship. Britt, retired Sen. Richard C. The former chief of staff, Shelby (R-Ala.), met with Trump and went to one of his rallies.

Byrne cited her conversations with campaign members, saying, “Katie and her men were very smart about going into Trump’s world and saying, hey, look, the guy you backed is not doing well.” Used to be.” “And I think it got his attention.”

Britt’s campaign did not make her available for an interview. Brit campaign spokesman Sean Ross did not comment on Britt’s efforts to win Trump’s support. “The people of Alabam are sick and tired of politicians doing nothing, and they are drawn to new blood,” Ross said in an emailed statement. He called Britt “the best candidate to fight in the U.S. Senate to defend Alabama’s Christian conservative values, advance America’s First agenda, and develop the opportunity of the 21st century for hardworking Alabama families.”

Boosted by millions in Super PAC spending—most of it from groups with ties to Shelby and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—Britt introduced himself as a new face with Christian and conservative values. Is. His campaign ads focus on issues such as inflation and border security and target the Biden administration.

The day Trump endorsed him, Britt tweeted, “President Trump knows the people of Alabamia are sick and tired of failing, doing nothing politicians.” Since then, Brit has not insisted on support on her social media accounts. When asked about this, Ross replied that the Brit campaign was airing an ad on television and running online spots promoting Trump’s support.

Meanwhile, Brooks is presenting himself as the only authentic MAGA candidate in the race. “Don’t send us weak sauce,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another anti-establishment Republican, urged a crowd of about 100 people Friday afternoon as he joined Brooks in Huntsville. “Don’t send us milktoast moderates. Don’t send us weak Republicans, send us a real conservative!”

The crowd denounced “RINOs” in Congress who backed Britt and laughed as 81-year-old Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden medical adviser condemned on the right, had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Spencer Kimball, who has led the race for the election since March, said Brooks supporters have increasingly said Trump’s choice doesn’t matter to them. “They kind of push it,” said the Emerson College associate professor describing “a lot of cognitive dissonance among voters.”

Jerry Duke, 66, declined to criticize Trump on Friday, even as he said he was “disappointed” at his handling of the former president’s endorsement.

“MAGA is not owned by Trump,” he said at Brooks’ event.

Trump has said he broke up with Brooks last August over Congressmen’s comments at a rally in Cullman, Ala., where Brooks was bullied for trying to look beyond election grievances. “There are some people who are dismayed about the 2020 voter fraud election evasion,” he said. “Guys, put it behind you.”

The crowd resented.

Seven months later, in March, Trump blasted those rallying comments as he rescinded his endorsement and called Brooks “wake up.” In response, Brooks said Trump had told him to “cancel” the 2020 vote, install Trump in the White House and try to “hold a new special election.” Even Brooks – who spoke at a rally before the January 6, 2021 uprising on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump crowd – dismissed it as overreach.

“As an attorney, I have repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest decision and that neither the US Constitution nor the US Code allows,” Brooks said in a statement at the time. “Duration.”

Brooks spent the next two months making excuses for Trump’s decision-making, accusing McConnell of flirting with the former president and publicly lobbying Trump to reconsider. Just this month, Brooks theorized that Trump was the kind of football coach everyone knew and “we need a kick in the pants.”

Then came Britt’s endorsement of Trump – the candidate he once saw as “supportive”. “Rino Senator from Alabama, close friend of Old Crow Mitch McConnell, Richard C. Shelby.” Brooks lashed out at columnist Kyle Whitmire on Trump, saying the former president “abandoned the conservative movement and the MAGA agenda to try to improve the reputation of his brand.”

When asked about Brooks’ new personal knock on Trump, some voters said he lacked any loyalty.

“You can combine this with your actions as a conclusion,” Henderson said, adding that voters are unsure about whether Trump should run in 2024.

But Christy Rutland, 54, a lifelong Republican, was happy to see Brooks call Trump faithless. “I’m glad someone said it out loud,” said the Huntsville resident and small business owner.

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