In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's role in the party system.
Trump has told RNC to support Roy Moore in Alabama. NRSC pulled out, and is staying out.
In a departure from every modern White House, Mr. Trump himself largely dictates whom to back and how to support his preferred candidates. Even before tensions between the president and Senate Republicans flared back up over Mr. Moore’s candidacy, there was little regular communication between West Wing officials and Republicans overseeing the 2018 races, Republicans say.
The scheduled meetings between the White House, the Republican National Committee and the House and Senate campaign committees stopped months ago. Congressional officials find it difficult to get presidential signoffs for even small requests like using Mr. Trump’s name in direct-mail appeals, according to party officials. And less than a month until the election year begins, he has not scheduled a single fund-raiser for a candidate running for the House, Senate or governor.
“What’s lacking is a central hierarchy in any decision making, which is critical to candidates across country,” said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a veteran of decades of campaigns. “You have this feeling that no one is fully in charge of Republican politics.”
The White House political affairs office has been effectively replaced by Mr. Trump and his Twitter account, handcuffing the president’s advisers. Requests for presidential assistance or, as in the case of the Alabama race, intervention often go unanswered because Mr. Trump’s staff members cannot offer any commitments, not knowing what the president will decide about a given candidate or campaign.
Yet the president does not completely understand his role as a principal, Republicans say, and his political operation does not have enough sway with him to make him fully grasp that he is the leader of the Republican Party.
For example, he is still telling his friends who attend high-dollar committee fund-raisers that they do not need to pay, the sort of favoritism that can create endless headaches for staff.
In two governor’s races, in New Jersey and Virginia, this year, the candidates and their top advisers up through Election Day were uncertain what Mr. Trump might say about the elections. When Mr. Trump tweeted about an ad run by Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, it was because he had just seen it broadcast on a Washington TV station.
“You can’t plan for him, you can only survive him,” said J. Tucker Martin, who was an adviser to Mr. Gillespie.