Former Trump administration officials are testing the waters for political office, underscoring the former president’s lasting influence on the Republican Party as it searches for a post-Trump identity.
Cliff Sims, the former deputy at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) who is close with several Trump family members, is seriously considering getting into the race to replace retiring Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by The AIDS Institute – COVID-19 rescue bill a unity test for Dems Trump’s Slovenia Ambassador Lynda Blanchard jumps into Alabama Senate race Iowa Republican announces Senate bid with Grassley’s 2022 plans unclear MORE (R-Ala.). Trump’s former ambassador to Slovenia, Lynda Blanchard, a top Trump donor, has already entered that primary as a “proud member of the MAGA movement.”
In Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyPhilly GOP commissioner on censures: ‘I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying’ Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote Toomey on Trump vote: ‘His betrayal of the Constitution’ required conviction MORE (R-Pa.) is retiring, Trump’s Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite and his ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, are both weighing bids.
Former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard GrenellRichard GrenellGrenell congratulates Buttigieg on becoming second openly gay Cabinet member Edward Snowden, the media, and the Espionage Act Kentucky governor calls vandalism to McConnell’s home ‘unacceptable’ MORE is being encouraged by Trump allies to run for governor of California if Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomTanden’s path to confirmation looks increasingly untenable The death of political self-awareness California governor extends all-mail voting through a potential recall MORE is recalled. Former White House spokeswoman Sarah HuckabeeSarah SandersWe knew media would coddle Biden — here’s why it’s much worse House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing Sarah Sanders on Trump’s reported war dead criticism: ‘Those comments didn’t happen’ MORE Sanders is already running for governor of Arkansas, where term-limited Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonArkansas state Senate approves bill banning all abortions unless mother’s life is threatened Republican Arkansas governor says he would not support Trump 2024 bid Sunday shows – COVID-19 dominates as grim milestone approaches MORE (R) has emerged as an outspoken Trump critic.
The jockeying is also playing out in House races, with Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson having been approached about running to replace the late Rep. Ron WrightRon WrightThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump’s second impeachment trial begins The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by TikTok – Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending Overnight Health Care: New COVID-19 cases nationally drop below 100K for first time in 2021 | CDC warns states against lifting restrictions amid threat of virus variants | Health officials warn COVID-19 eradication unlikely MORE (R-Texas) and former White House aide Max Miller is preparing a primary challenge against Rep. Anthony Gonzales (R-Ohio), who voted to impeach Trump.
Republicans say the maneuvering among Trump’s allies is indicative of the former president’s continuing popularity with grassroots conservatives who are eager for the next wave of leaders to take up his mantle.
“It’s still Trump’s party and he may actually have gained in popularity [with the GOP base] since impeachment,” said former Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James Barletta10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed Bottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs MORE (R-Pa.). “Many Trump supporters felt everyone was against him from the beginning when he was coming down the elevator and it hasn’t stopped since he left office. If the Democratic goal was to disqualify him, they may have just made him larger.”
In deep-red Alabama, the race to replace Shelby could turn on which candidate is seen as the closest to Trump.
Sources tell The Hill that Sims, the former White House aide who also spent time at ODNI, is seriously weighing a bid.
Sims appeared to have a brief falling out with Trump after the release of his best-selling book “Team of Vipers,” which was unsparing in its critique of several White House officials working under Trump.
But Sims is close with Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka TrumpIvanka TrumpThe Hill’s Morning Report – Disaster politics hobble Cruz, Cuomo Ivanka Trump won’t challenge Rubio for Senate seat in 2022 Emergency paid leave is just good business MORE and Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerOvernight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq Biden shifts approach to Saudi leaders LIVE COVERAGE: Democrats focus on Trump remarks before attack on Capitol MORE. After his White House stint, he was brought on by the Republican National Committee to oversee speechwriting at the 2020 convention before moving to his post at ODNI under then-director John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeGrenell congratulates Buttigieg on becoming second openly gay Cabinet member Senate confirms Biden’s intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Biden intelligence chief pledges to keep politics out of job MORE.
“Cliff has a keen understanding of important national security issues like the rise of China and he’s a true believer in the conservative America First movement,” Ratcliffe said in a statement to The Hill. “Most importantly though, Cliff has a servant’s heart and if he decides to run, I’m confident that no one would fight harder for the people of Alabama.”
Blanchard, the Trump donor and former ambassador to Slovenia, got an early jump on the field, releasing a video announcement pledging she would carry on Trump’s legacy.
“We will give the swamp a heckuva dose of the common sense and conservative principle that it needs to truly make America great again – just like President TrumpDonald TrumpFauci: U.S. political divide over masks led to half a million COVID-19 deaths Georgia bishop says state GOP’s elections bill is an ‘attempt to suppress the Black vote’ Trump closer to legal jeopardy after court ruling on tax returns MORE did,” Blanchard said.
It’s lining up to be a staunch pro-Trump field throughout, with Reps. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksTrump’s Slovenia Ambassador Lynda Blanchard jumps into Alabama Senate race The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by TikTok – Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending Shelby’s retirement tees off GOP scramble for Alabama Senate seat MORE (R-Ala.) and Gary PalmerGary James PalmerThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by TikTok – Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending Shelby’s retirement tees off GOP scramble for Alabama Senate seat Mo Brooks expresses interest in running for Shelby’s Senate seat MORE (R-Ala.), as well as businesswomen Jessica Taylor and Katie Boyd Britt, believed to be considering bids.
“Trump has a 90 percent favorability rating in Alabama. If you’re running in a Republican primary here, why would you not get as close to him as possible?” said Brent Buchanan, a veteran GOP operative from Alabama. “The challenge becomes when you have four people in the race identifying as MAGA members. The other component is going to be what fundraising looks like in that scenario.”
In Pennsylvania, Trump-aligned Republicans are lining up to replace Toomey, who infuriated some conservatives in his home state by voting to convict Trump for inciting a riot.
Braithwaite, the former Navy secretary under Trump, is expected to run.
A spokesperson for Sands, a businesswoman and former ambassador to Denmark who moved to Pennsylvania last year, said she’s looking at running “because our country is on the wrong track.”
Army veteran Sean Parnell, who is close with Donald Trump Jr., could also get in the race.
“Trump is very popular among Republican primary voters in Pennsylvania,” said Barletta. “I believe it would be very difficult for those who oppose Trump and his policies to win a primary here.”
Trump’s allies, including Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityUN chief labels white supremacy a ‘transnational threat’ Bill Gates: Weatherized energy plants could’ve prevented deaths in Texas winter freeze Tucker Carlson to produce video podcasts for Fox Nation MORE and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCancun fallout threatens to deal lasting damage to Cruz Thune: Trump allies partaking in ‘cancel culture’ by punishing senators who voted to convict Hogan praises Kinzinger in Time profile: ‘Adam proved the measure of his courage’ MORE (R-Fla.), have publicly advocated for Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting DNI, to run for governor of California if Newsom is recalled.
Sources say Grenell is considering it, although he acknowledged on Hannity’s show earlier this month that any Republican running for statewide office in California is “going to have a real tough time.”
Hannity himself has long been rumored to be considering a run for office in New York, while another ally of the former president, fellow Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonJill Biden picks up where she left off Tucker Carlson to produce video podcasts for Fox Nation Fox News goes with wall-to-wall coverage of Limbaugh death MORE, is getting some buzz to run for the White House in 2024.
In Arkansas, Sanders, a former White House press secretary under Trump, is the front-runner since launching her bid for the governor’s mansion with Trump’s support. That’s in contrast to the current governor Hutchinson, who has been making the rounds urging the GOP to move on from Trump.
In Ohio’s 16th Congressional District, Miller, the former White House and campaign aide, is said to be looking at a primary challenge against Gonzalez, a two-term lawmaker. Miller could be one of several challengers to the 10 House members that voted to impeach Trump.
Pierson, who was with the Trump campaign from the start in 2016, has heard from Texas Republicans and Trump allies encouraging her to run to replace Ron Wright, the longtime Dallas-area House member who died of lung cancer earlier this month. Sources say she’s seriously considering it.
“Trump is going to be relevant everywhere across the country in Republican primaries,” said Buchanan. “The president has an incredibly loyal base.”