A reserved Trump, Senate GOP find common ground in primary contests as party touts unity

“President Trump is focused on the future and works with both Senate and House members to secure majorities in November and advance priorities that put Americans first," Leavitt said.

Published: June 13, 2024 11:00pm

During the 2022 midterms, former President Donald Trump and Senate leadership were noticeably at odds during many critical primary races, with the ex-president often backing unconventional candidates that Washington feared would struggle to win their races.

In 2024, however, Senate leadership and Trump appear to be more in line with one another in terms of the party’s possible Senate nominees, with Trump and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) generally throwing their support behind the same candidates in key races and Trump towing a notably more amicable line with Senate leaders than in the last cycle.

The former president reportedly maintains a close relationship with NRSC Chairman Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. In February, reports emerged that Trump was pushing him to seek the post of Senate GOP leader, though he has not entered that race. Instead, the pair appear to be working in tandem to some extent to advance a relatively predictable slate of candidates and secure the Senate majority.

Trump’s evidently close relationship with the NRSC is far from new, however, and the previous chairman, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., lent his support to many of Trump’s own choices in the last cycle. Notable among those were former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia and reality TV star Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, neither of whom won their races.

Scott publicly broke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in part over their divergent opinions on Republican candidates that cycle. He later unsuccessfully challenged him for leadership and lost the NRSC post.

This time around, however, Trump appears to be backing the NRSC’s preferred candidates as much as it backs his, with him often opting for relatively conventional candidates over conservative stalwarts or even veterans of his own administration.

“President Trump has done a real good job working with the NRSC on supporting candidates,” Sen. Thom Tilllis, R-N.C., told Politico earlier this month. 

“President Trump is focused on the future and works with both Senate and House members to secure majorities in November and advance priorities that put Americans first such as protecting Social Security and Medicare, cutting taxes, securing the southern border, and restoring the peace and prosperity that Joe Biden’s failed policies have stolen from the American people,” Trump Campaign National Press Secretary Karoline Leavitt told Just the News.

Sam Brown

Trump opted to endorse Sam Brown in the primary over his own former ambassador to Iceland, Jeff Gunter, doing so via Truth Social after participating in a Las Vegas rally in which he did not endorse Gunter, according to Politico.

“Sam Brown is a FEARLESS AMERICAN PATRIOT, a Purple Heart Recipient, who has proven he has the ‘PURE GRIT’ and COURAGE to take on our Enemies, both Foreign and Domestic,” Trump posted.

Notably, Gunter attributed Trump’s endorsement to Daines and contended that the NRSC had pushed Trump to commit to Brown after he didn’t endorse him at the rally, speculating that “On plane ride back big check comes in from the swamp (McConnell-aligned PAC?)”

Brown earned the endorsement of GOP Gov. Joe Lombardo as well as Trump. The campaign and NRSC both rejected Gunter’s claims that they had worked to sideline him. Brown ultimately won the Tuesday primary.

"President Trump’s endorsement record is unmatched by any leader of any party in American history because of his deep and powerful relationship with voters.  That was evidenced once again by another tremendous victory for Sam Brown in Nevada,” Leavitt told Just the News.

Tim Sheehy

Trump and Republican leadership were largely on the same page with respect to their support for Tim Sheehy, who is challenging incumbent Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., briefly threw a wrench in the Republican Primary, jumping into the race in early February. Rosendale previously challenged Tester in the 2018 midterms, but failed to unseat him.

Trump swiftly offered his endorsement for Sheehy after Rosendale announced his candidacy, saying “I also respect Matt Rosendale… But in this instance, Tim is the candidate who is currently best-positioned to DEFEAT Lazy Jon Tester, and Regain the Republican Majority in the United States Senate.”

“He is strongly supported by our incredible Chairman of the NRSC, Steve Daines, and many other patriotic Senators and Republicans who have endorsed our Campaign to, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump added.

Rosendale dropped out of the race less than a week into his candidacy.

Dave McCormick

Former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick ran for the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania in 2022, but failed to defeat Trump’s preferred choice, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who ultimately lost to now-Democratic Sen. John Fetterman.

Trump endorsed McCormick in April at a Pennsylvania rally McCormick himself did not attend, according to the Associated Press.

“He’s a smart guy. He was a very successful guy. He’s given up a lot to do this,” Trump said at the time.

Hung Cao

Trump endorsed retired Navy veteran Hung Cao in the Virginia GOP Senate primary, putting him at odds with a number of his close allies in the Senate, who have backed Scott Parkinson.

Parkinson, notably, is the vice president of government affairs at the Club for Growth, which has feuded with Trump in the past. He also served as then-Florida GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis’s chief of staff during his 2018 gubernatorial run. DeSantis went on to unsuccessfully challenge Trump in the GOP primary.

Trump stalwarts in the Senate such as Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas; Mike Lee, Utah; and Tommy Tuberville, Ala.; have thrown their support behind Parkinson.

Mike Rogers

Trump’s endorsement of Mike Rogers, who is running for Senate in Michigan, was fairly obvious in light of his primary rivals’ own relationship with the former president. 

Former Reps. Peter Meijer and Justin Amash, both of whom were in the race at the time, previously voted to impeach Trump, albeit in different trials. Rogers, for his part, never did so, as he left Congress in 2015.

Kari Lake

Lake unsuccessfully ran for governor of Arizona in 2022 and ranked among Trump’s more controversial endorsements during that cycle. But the NRSC has thrown its support behind her 2024 Senate campaign, suggesting that Trump has managed to win the committee over on some of his most loyal allies.

"We are uniting Republicans in Arizona and have a clear path to victory. The Senate Majority runs through Arizona,” Lake said after the NRSC backed her candidacy.

Bernie Moreno

The NRSC stayed out of the Ohio GOP Senate primary, which featured businessman Bernie Moreno, state Sen. Matt Dolan, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Moreno previously ran for the nomination in 2022, but lost out to the Trump-backed J.D. Vance, who in turn endorsed Moreno in the 2024 cycle.

Trump also threw his support behind Moreno during the primary, calling him “exactly the type of MAGA fighter that we need in the United States Senate.”

Following Moreno’s win in the primary, Daines offered him his “full endorsement” shortly after the race was called, according to Politico.

Mending fences?

Trump on Thursday met with Senate Republicans at the invitation of Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said they would not attend, citing conflicts. All three voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6, 2021, disturbance at the U.S. Capitol. Romney later indicated he had had a change of plans and would attend, the Associated Press reported.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with whom Trump has long feuded, plans to step down as GOP leader later this year and several Republican lawmakers, including Florida's GOP Sen. Rick Scott, Texas' Sen. John Cornyn, and South Dakota's Sen. John Thune, have sought the post.

“I believe it will be helpful to hear directly from former President Trump about his plans for the summer and to also share our ideas for a strategic governing agenda in 2025,” Barrasso said ahead of the meeting. The Wyoming Republican is running for GOP Whip and has the support of Trump, who has not endorsed a candidate to lead the Senate Republicans.

In the wake of the meeting with Senate Republicans, Trump stated that "There's tremendous unity in the Republican party. We want to see borders, we want to see a strong military [and] we want to see money not wasted all over the world."

"They want this country to be great again and we're gonna make it great again,"  he further said of lawmakers with whom he met.

Unlock unlimited access

  • No Ads Within Stories
  • No Autoplay Videos
  • VIP access to exclusive Just the News newsmaker events hosted by John Solomon and his team.
  • Support the investigative reporting and honest news presentation you've come to enjoy from Just the News.
  • Just the News Spotlight

    Support Just the News