Seeking to capitalize on the popularity of former President Donald Trump, supporters are lining up across the country to run for governor in a number of key states.
Texas, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, and Georgia gubernatorial races all figure to test the endorsement of the Republican Party's leading voice in the 2022 midterm elections.
"You're going to see situations where people are trying to out-Trump each other," Republican strategist Doug Heye told The Hill. "Ultimately, these candidates are making a bet, and the bet is Trump is powerful enough for them to be a vehicle to move into the governor's mansion."
Trump chose his endorsement in Texas early, backing Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott last month, but former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West has announced a campaign to primary him, along with two others.
"He didn't leave any wiggle room for West or anyone else to say that Trump is not with the governor," a Republican consultant told The Hill.
Conservative political commentator Chad Prather, and former Texas state GOP Sen. Don Huffines are also going all-in on their political future against a Republican incumbent.
"A not-strong-enough showing in the state of Texas can also hamper your standing with donors in the national press when it comes to actually announcing a presidential campaign," the GOP consultant told The Hill.
Huffines even used an oft-used Trump criticism to call out Abbott as a RINO (Republican in Name Only).
"When it comes to primary rhetoric, it's actually pretty good rhetoric, and he knows that Abbott won't be able to go there or go that far," the consultant added.
Among the other potential gubernatorial races that might be impacted by Trump, Republican Geoff Diehl is running for governor in Massachusetts, while Massachusetts GOP Gov. Charlie Baker weighs running for another term.
Former Maine GOP Gov. Paul LePage is running for another go-around, while Dan Cox is running in Maryland, where GOP Gov. Larry Hogan has been one of the most vocal anti-Trump voices in America.
"It's an uphill climb for any Republican, and if you're going down the Trump lane, your path gets very limited," Heye told The Hill. "If Maryland Republicans want to have a shot at winning, they nominate [Hogan Secretary of Commerce] Kelly Schulz or they lose."
Every state is unique on the Trump dynamic, according to one Republican operative to The Hill.
"These are statewide races, and they are specifically for state governments, so the issues are just a little different," the operative said.
Ohio GOP Gov. Mike DeWine is facing a primary from former Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, who has Trump's former campaign manager Brad Parscale as an adviser.
"There is some rumblings from the base, if it was somebody that was a more credible challenger, like, say [Rep.] Warren Davidson [R-Ohio], I think that would be more of a cause for concern," an Ohio Republican Ohio operative told The Hill.
Massachusetts will be an interesting one, because Baker had been a popular Republican governor in a blue state, but there are concerns among the GOP he is a bit more liberal, but that might be what it takes to keep the mansion.
"Maybe we're better off without the governorship and we're able to grow the party from the ground up," Republican State Committeeman Steve Aylward said at a state committee meeting last month, NBC-10 Boston reported.
Maine's LePage, running against Democrat Gov. Janet Mills, boasts he was "Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular," according to The Hill.
"The way LePage governed was kind of Trump in style before there was a Trump, with a lot of what I would politely say are brash statements and getting into similar fights that Trump would, but he won," Heye told The Hill. "There I don't think it's so much of a play for Trump's base per se than LePage being LePage."
In Georgia, one of the biggest battlegrounds in America, GOP Gov. Brian Kemp drew Trump's ire after the 2020 presidential election.
Former Democrat Vernon Jones is clearly on the Trump train in the primary challenge of Kemp, who has tried to tread his way back by signing election reform.
"It's kind of shored up the base for Kemp in a way that they see him as fighting for the state," the GOP operative told The Hill.
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