Monday, September 10, 2018

Most volatile candidate not on ballot

Heading into the midterm elections, the most volatile candidate this year isn't on the ballot. But Trump still loves to go on the road and soak up the adoration of his cult.

His eagerness to protect his political flank has led Republican officials to devise a strategy for managing the president. It's designed to keep him out of places where he can be harmful.

His unpredictability ends up doing real damage.

There's a constant effort to keep him on his best behavior.

This past week, Trump heeded pleas from advisers and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner to refrain from picking a favorite in the Arizona primary. Later, at a rally in Indiana for Senate candidate Mike Braun, the president largely stuck to his script criticizing Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.

Aides believe Trump's drawing power is critical to a strong turnout among the most rigid GOP voters. But his presence could be counterproductive in many House districts.

This celebrity-turned-president is hardly a selfless leader of his adoptive party. He launched his own re-election campaign just weeks after his swearing-in last year, rather than waiting until after the midterm elections, as did his predecessors.

Trump is motivated by self-protection. He's keenly aware of the threats and investigations that could come his way if Democratic hold a majority in either the House or Senate.

Trump created an unnecessary political firestorm with his delayed and muted response to the death of Sen. John McCain.

At his Indiana rally, Trump stuck to familiar themes. He did not mention McCain, avoiding the well-worn tale about the senator's pivotal vote against the president's attempted destruction of Obamacare.

The mere fact that Trump kept the senator out of his remarks was notable.

While Trump's White House remains turbulent, insiders said the political shop has managed to impose some discipline.

Some races have proved complicated, as in the Arizona Senate race, where Kelly Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio both promoted their ties to Trump, as did establishment favorite Rep. Martha McSally. Trump stayed out of the race and McSally handily defeated the two controversial candidates, averting what could have been a disaster for the party this fall.

In the Tennessee, Trump stayed out of that race.

But the president could not be persuaded to stay silent in other cases.

He supported Foster Friess in the GOP gubernatorial primary in Wyoming. Friess lost.

Aides said they pick their battles, prioritizing races that could swing the balance of congressional control.

For political travel, White House staffers, who are coordinating with party aides, have divided the electoral map into places Trump can be helpful and places where it's better to send in Pence, Cabinet secretaries, or others.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus is "prioritizing places where Trump performed well and where there's a strong network of support," said North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows.

Whenever Trump makes a political trip, aides try to make sure the candidate meets the president at the airport – giving the appearance of “a welcome.”

Trump is well known for turning the spotlight on his own accomplishments.

Trump's rallies have only served to boost the GOP's email and voter contact. Attendees are entered into the party's database system.

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