Donald Trump wants to lead the Republican Party. The Republican Party still isn’t sure what it wants to do with Donald Trump.
Trump has begun urging party officials to unite behind him as he moves closer to the GOP presidential nomination, promising to campaign for vulnerable Republican incumbents and expand the party’s majorities in Congress. But the GOP’s senators, instead of welcoming him with open arms, are furiously developing unique plans to pitch and maintain their own personal political appeal with blue-state voters, separate from the brash businessman and his 62 percent unfavorable rating, which many party strategists believe would poison down-ballot candidates’ chances if Trump tops the Republican ticket.
In New Hampshire, GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s campaign will rely on door-knocking and person-to-person interactions to maintain her independent brand, a strategy that other candidates in small states or districts may favor. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and others will lean on hefty campaign bank accounts and TV ads to define themselves and their Democratic opponents separately from the presidential race. Sen. Ron Johnson could play up his own blunt manner in Wisconsin while avoiding Trump’s sharper edges. And in Pennsylvania, Sen. Pat Toomey is banking on a moderate policy achievements and his state’s historic proclivity for ticket-splitting.