Washington • President Donald Trump will spend more than a month on the campaign trail this fall with events in 16 states to help Republicans keep the House and boost its hold on the Senate.
So far not on the travel list: Utah.
Trump’s approval rating hovers around 50 percent in the Beehive State and he fares even worse in the 4th Congressional District where GOP Rep. Mia Love is in a tight battle with Democrat Ben McAdams. The president’s presence in Love’s race may not be helpful for her re-election.
Trump plans to hit states and congressional districts where he can do the most help, a person familiar with the president’s thinking — but who would only speak on condition of anonymity — said Tuesday. That means visits to the Dakotas, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada and Tennessee as well as West Virginia, where he was slated Tuesday to speak for the sixth time as president.
Love, who didn’t vote for Trump in the 2016 election but who has supported his agenda, hasn’t asked for help from the president or from Vice President Mike Pence, her campaign manager Dave Hansen said. She wouldn’t necessarily turn them down, though, Hansen added.
“They are going to make those decisions themselves,” Hansen said. “We’re fine with the schedule that we have. You will see it unfold as the campaign goes on.”
If offered, Hansen said the campaign would “take a look at it and see what was going on in the campaign at the time.”
Does that mean Love prefers Trump stay out of the race?
“Not necessarily,” Hansen said. “We haven’t said, ‘Please come’ or ‘please don’t come.’ We always plan the campaign with what you know is going to happen, and then go from there. And we feel comfortable with where we are.”
While Love’s district includes more Republicans than Democrats – with Republicans enjoying a 13 percent advantage generally, according to the Cook Political Report – she’s running neck-and-neck with McAdams, the Salt Lake County mayor. The Cook Report analysis lists the district as “leans Republican."
A Salt Lake Tribune poll in late June showed Love beating McAdams by 6 percentage points among registered voters in the district, though with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 points, the race is a statistical tie.
”Is President Trump avoiding Utah because he doesn’t endorse Representative Love or because she thinks his visit will hurt her?" Andrew Roberts, McAdams campaign manager said. "The fact remains Representative Love supports Trump 96% of the time. As hard as she may pretend otherwise, Trump’s agenda is Love’s agenda.”
Love has appeared with Trump at White House events, though she hasn’t embraced him as others have, including Sen. Orrin Hatch who has said Trump could be one of the best presidents ever.
For his part, McAdams has distanced himself from his party’s top official, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has become the political boogeyman in close races across America.
McAdams says if elected, he would not back Pelosi for the leader of the House Democrats – or speaker, if Democrats win back control of the chamber.
The Pelosi-aligned House Majority PAC has reserved airtime for Democratic candidates, though none so far to help McAdams.
Trump’s decision on whom to back this year in congressional races won’t have anything to do with whether the incumbent or challenger backed him in the election or called for him to step down after a recording of him saying salacious comments about women became public, the person familiar with the president’s thinking said.
Trump’s team, that person said, would rely on a variety of factors in whether the president should make a splash to boost a candidate, including the latest polling, fundraising and other campaign metrics.
The plan, as of now, is to hold 15 campaign events and eight rallies in 16 states, though others will be added as the election draws near. Beyond visits to states and districts, the president can also help on the digital campaign side by sharing email lists and raising money, the person said.
“Rallies are just one tool in his toolkit,” the person said.