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Trump throws support behind 3 allies in state

Experts say endorsements valuable in GOP primaries by Frank E. Lockwood | March 10, 2021 at 7:07 a.m.
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump attends a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON -- Former President Donald Trump is giving his "Complete and Total Endorsement" to several Republican allies, including three from Arkansas, but he's warning others in the party not to use his name or likeness without his permission.

This week, the ex-president declared his support for U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers, writing: "Senator John Boozman is a great fighter for the people of Arkansas. He is tough on Crime, strong on the Border, a great supporter of our Military and our Vets, and fights for our farmers every day. He supports our Second Amendment and has my Complete and Total Endorsement!"

On Friday, Trump backed Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin's bid for state attorney general, calling him "a highly respected Army Veteran who will always fight for the great people of Arkansas."

On Jan. 25, he threw his support behind former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, stating that Sanders "is a warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct."

University of Arkansas political science professor Janine Parry said the endorsements will help the candidates with fundraising while also discouraging other Republicans from entering the race.

"These Republicans are showing that they wear the right brand," she said.

In a Republican primary, "it's, Trump, Trump, Trump, 24/7," Parry said. "If you're not on board that train, it's going to be real hard to earn votes."

Given Arkansas' Republican tilt, "all that matters is the primary, so this is valuable," she said.

Despite losing the White House in November, Trump continues to have a loyal base in the Natural State.

The 45th president captured 97.1% of the vote in the state's 2020 Republican presidential primary and captured 62.4% of the vote against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

"The people I hear from still greatly admire President Trump. They think he was perhaps the best president we've ever had [and] accomplished more than any other president in our lifetimes," said Republican Party of Arkansas Chairwoman Jonelle Fulmer.

Trump's support is helpful in Arkansas, "especially right out of the box," she said.

While Trump's backing helps, it's a long time between now and 2022, she noted.

"There's going to be a lot of work that goes into the primary campaigns and the general campaign. By the end, the endorsement isn't new anymore," she said.

Ultimately, she said, "the grassroots campaigns are going to pay off."

Hal Bass, a political science professor emeritus at Ouachita Baptist University, predicted the Trump endorsements would "play very well with the primary Republican primary voters in Arkansas."

"Right now, [Trump is] certainly the most highly regarded figure in the national Republican Party, and seems anxious to assert his post-presidential party leadership in a very aggressive, aggressive fashion," Bass said.

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray said the Trump endorsements show Republican candidates are going to "divide people down wedge-issue lines and fan the flames of division."

"I think if you want to be the senator from the state of Arkansas or the governor or attorney general of the state of Arkansas, you should be able to stand on your record and talk about what you want to do for Arkansans instead of falling in line and trying to ride the coattails of a twice-impeached president," Gray said.

Trump's recent endorsements came as he was distancing himself from some of the party's traditional fundraising apparatus.

On Friday, his lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, objecting to some of their fundraising practices.

In a written statement Tuesday, he doubled down, saying donations to his own political action committee won't be used to support Republicans In Name Only.

"I fully support the Republican Party and important GOP Committees, but I do not support RINOs and fools, and it is not their right to use my likeness or image to raise funds. So much money is being raised and completely wasted by people that do not have the GOP's best interests in mind," he said. "If you donate to our Save America PAC at DonaldJTrump.com, you are helping the America First movement and doing it right. We will WIN, and we will WIN BIG! Our Country is being destroyed by the Democrats!"

Boozman, who formally announced his reelection candidacy over the weekend, was not available Tuesday to discuss Trump's endorsement, spokesman Matthew Wester said.

But in a written statement, the senator highlighted his work with the previous administration.

"President Trump and I worked together to grow the economy, secure the border, defend the Second Amendment and protect life. Together we rebuilt the military, stood up for our veterans, helped farmers through challenging times and reshaped the judiciary," Boozman said.

"I'm proud of that record and am grateful for the president's support," Boozman added.

In a text message, Sanders portrayed Trump's backing as helpful.

"President Trump continues to be the most influential voice in Republican politics and I appreciate his continued confidence in me and support for strong conservative leaders in Arkansas," she wrote.

In a written statement, Griffin expressed appreciation for the endorsement.

"I am honored to have President Trump's support in the race for Attorney General. I admire his determination to keep the promises he made to enact conservative policies, especially nominating judges who understand their role is to interpret the law, not make it," he said.

Since leaving office on Jan. 20, Trump has offered his support to several other Republicans.

U.S. Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Crapo of Idaho all received Trump's backing after voting to acquit him of inciting insurrection.

The former president also endorsed Bob Paduchik's successful campaign for Ohio Republican party chairman; former White House aide Max Miller's candidacy against pro-impeachment U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio; and Henry McMaster's bid for another term as governor of South Carolina.

University of South Carolina political science professor Robert Oldendick said the announcement is "a very positive thing for Gov. McMaster."

"We know from polling and from his performance back in November, Donald Trump is very well liked here. He's very popular. An endorsement from him is really going to be helpful," Oldendick said.

With Trump in his corner, it "makes it look like McMaster should have a fairly easy road to victory," he added.

Markie McBrayer, a University of Idaho political science professor, said the endorsement is good news for Crapo, lessening the chances he'll face a primary challenge from the right.

Asked if Trump's backing makes Crapo's reelection path smoother, McBrayer said, "It makes it more secure."

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