Former US president Trump faces tough White House bid, after endorsed candidate loses Senate run-off
Republican and Trump-endorsed candidate Herschel Walker was defeated by incumbent Democrat senator Raphael Warnock in the Georgia Senate run-off election, the final undecided contest of the US midterms.
SINGAPORE: Former United States president Donald Trump could lose some influence within the Republican Party in his bid to return to the White House, after the candidate he endorsed for the Georgia Senate seat lost in a fierce run-off election, observers said on Wednesday (Dec 7).
Herschel Walker was defeated on Tuesday by incumbent Democrat senator Raphael Warnock in the final undecided contest of the midterm elections.
It would now be harder for Mr Trump, who faces scrutiny from within the GOP, to get party leaders and donors to back him and mount a successful campaign in the 2024 presidential race.
TRUMP-BACKED CANDIDATES UNDERPERFORMED
“This has not been a good electoral season for Trump,” said Professor William Howell, the Sydney Stein professor in American politics at the University of Chicago. “Herschel Walker was handpicked by Trump to run in a state that's decidedly Republican.”
If he is unable to get his handpicked candidate elected in such a state, “it's going to speak to a lot of people's concerns about the kind of clout that he has or his lack of clout within the larger electorate”, he told CNA’s Asia First.
“And it's on the basis of that that he's likely to lose some influence within the party.”
Mr Trump made the announcement to run again for the White House just a week after the midterms, where candidates that he backed in competitive races underperformed. They included people with little political experience.
“The direction of the Republican Party remains very much up for grabs,” said Prof Howell, who has written widely on separation-of-powers issues and American political institutions including the presidency.
“And I think a lot of people will be looking to the outcome of this race as an indicator of his status with the electorate, and make inferences on the basis of that about the kind of influence he ought to be wielding within the party.”
Observers have said that Mr Trump is likely to face a tougher battle in his latest presidential bid, with some Republican leaders and voters already weary of his “toxic politics”.
EXPANDING DEMOCRATS’ RAZOR-THIN MAJORITY
On Wednesday, Mr Warnock won the re-election in a high-stakes Georgia Senate run-off that expanded the Democrats' slim majority.
The Democrats now hold 51 seats in the 100-seat Senate, against the Republicans' 49.
In such a closely divided Senate, every seat counts, observers have pointed out.
While Mr Warnock’s victory gives the Democrats “a little bit of breathing room”, the party also has to get two conservative senators Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin on their side, said Prof Howell. The Arizona and West Virginia senators have often held up US President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
He added that the Democrats “certainly would rather be 51-49 than 50-50, as they try to make appointments in the executive branch and in the federal judiciary in the next couple of years”.
The battle between Mr Warnock, a pastor of Martin Luther King’s former church, and Mr Walker, a former American football star, went to a second round after neither candidate got the required 50 per cent of votes at the Nov 8 midterms.
Prof Howell believes the outcome of this run-off contest was determined largely by voter turnout, because Democrats are squarely behind Mr Warnock, “but there are some misgivings among Republicans about Herschel Walker”.
Observers said the Democrats have exceeded expectations in this midterm elections, after having pulled off a performance for the record books by retaining the Senate. Historically, the midterm results swing in favour of the party that does not hold the presidency.
Prof Howell said: “That they only lost a bare majority to the Republican Party in the House and managed to hold on to the Senate is really quite significant and historically at least, extraordinary.”