As Republicans jump to blame, Trump is the obvious target

eDozens of races across the country remained unresolved as of midday Wednesday, but Republicans are already engaged in that age-old post-election game among the country’s underperformers: Who’s to blame?

And in many conversations between players late Tuesday and early Wednesday, a clear target emerged: Donald Trump, who has entered dozens of races and even said in the run-up to the election that he deserves credit if his party does well, but not the blame. if they didn’t.

“The election was much closer than it should have been because Trump supported some candidates in the Republican primary who were inexperienced, first-time candidates, unprepared for a very intense, high-stakes Senate race,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist and interviewer.

Trump spent Wednesday morning at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., making angry calls to friends and advisers about why the decisive wave of GOP victories he and so many others had predicted was not materializing, with former President blaming others for the endorsement decisions he made, according to a former Trump White House official who still maintains contact with Trump’s inner circle. Trump said in those conversations that losing candidates should have bought more fully into his lie about winning the 2020 election, pointing to TV doc Mehmet Oz’s defeat by John Fetterman in the Pennsylvania Senate race as particularly a disappointing result, said the former official, who noted that Trump was also angry that Rupert Murdoch owned New York Publish printed the headline “DeFuture” to describe Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose landslide re-election victory Tuesday blew past Trump’s 2020 margins in the state.

Read more: How John Fetterman beat Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania

By afternoon, Trump had calmed down a bit, writing on his social media platform Truth Social that the election results were “somewhat disappointing” but saying “from my personal perspective, it was a very big win,” calculating his own tally and losses for candidates he has supported – “219 WINS and 16 losses in the General.”

Those losses, however, included some of the most expensive and tight races of the midterm elections, ones in which Trump all but determined the Republican nominee with his support. Many of Trump’s own supporters criticized his participation in the midterm elections.

Trump supporter at rally in Miami (Andres Kudacki for TIME)

A Trump supporter at a rally in Miami

Andres Kudacki for TIME

As the former president sulked, Republicans took stock of the impact of his nominee election refusals influenced the outcome, which was not the clear rebuke of Joe Biden’s presidency that they expected. Instead, Republicans face the prospect of controlling the House by a slim margin, if they flip it at all, which would make incoming Speaker Kevin McCarthy dependent on fringe Republican members of the House. Control of the Senate remains too close to call.

Matt Langston, general counsel in Austin, Texas, at Engage Right, a conservative strategy firm, dismissed the idea that Trump’s participation in the midterm elections was a mistake, saying such an assessment cannot be determined before the final party decision. for the next congress it was known.

“The bottom line from last night was either a referendum on Trump or a referendum on Biden — that answer is still not clear,” Langston told TIME.

Biden, for his part, believes that the answer is beyond doubt.

“Democrats had a strong night,” he said Wednesday afternoon, speaking to reporters in the White House State Dining Room. Biden said that “while the press and pundits were predicting a red wave. It didn’t happen.”

The results, while incomplete, were hailed in the White House as evidence of Biden’s measured approach to leadership and his warnings about the dangers election denialists pose to American democracy. “With their votes, the American people have spoken once again and proved that democracy is what we are,” Biden said.

Ayres agrees that a major obstacle for Republican candidates is Trump’s denial of the 2020 results and his efforts to decertify the Jan. 6 election. “It turns out that trying to cancel an election is not very popular with American voters,” he says. Ayres pointed to pro-choice denier and former TV news anchor Carrie Lake’s campaign for governor of Arizona against Democrat Katie Hobbs, which as of late Wednesday remained helpless as ballots were still being counted. “Carrie Lake is a very polished, very effective candidate,” Ayres said. “Katie Hobbs is a very underwhelming, ineffective candidate. And yet it looks like it’s something close to a dead battle because of Kari Lake’s election rejection.”

Read more: How Kari Lake went from local anchor to the new face of MAGA Right

Supporters cheer as it rains at a Trump rally in Miami (Andres Kudacki for TIME)

Supporters cheer as it rains at a Trump rally in Miami

Andres Kudacki for TIME

What Trump does in the coming weeks could again affect which party controls the Senate, or at least by what margin. In the Georgia matchup between Trump-backed candidate Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, neither candidate won 50 percent of the vote, sending the race to Runoff Dec. 6. Trump is expected to announce his presidential bid on Tuesday, November 15, at his club in Florida. The night before the midterms, Trump told a rally in Dayton, Ohio, that he would make a “very big announcement” that day.

But having a blitz of headlines about Trump’s presidential campaign may not be what Republicans need in their bid to control the Senate. Some Trump allies, such as former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and former Trump senior adviser Jason Miller, said they advised the former president to hold off on major announcements until the Georgia runoff is decided.

Langston suggested that the outcome of the midterm elections might actually make Trump more likely to pull the trigger and announce. “History has taught us that you’re dealing with a candidate and a team of advisers who, the higher it looks like an uphill climb, the harder they fight,” he says.

More election coverage from TIME

Write to Jasmine Aguilera c [email protected].

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