After the “disaster” of the last election cycle, top Republican Sen. Steve Daines is steering the Senate GOP’s campaign arm in a new direction, insisting he and Donald Trump see eye to eye on supporting winnable candidates.
“The clearest path to the majority is the United States Senate,” the Montanan said in an interview at his National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) office.
“We have three red states where Democrats have to defend an incumbent: that’s Ohio, that’s West Virginia, that’s Montana.”
With a promising map in front of her, Daines knows that success will depend on the NRSC and Trump working in lockstep to clear the path for their hand-picked candidates.
Last cycle, under Sen. Rick Scott, D-Fla., the NRSC took a more laissez-faire approach to Republican primaries. Trump, for his part, supported a number of primary candidates who had no greater general election appeal in swing states, such as Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.
Daines, however, declined to blame Trump.
“We talk a lot, we talk back and forth about what’s going on in the country.” “We talk a lot about Senate elections,” Daines said of his relationship with the former president.
After the “disaster” of the last election cycle, top Republican Sen. Steve Daines is steering the Senate GOP’s campaign arm in a new direction, insisting he and Donald Trump see eye to eye on supporting winnable candidates
But the question is how much Trump and his support will help in swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.
“You can see that President Trump was really great.” He supported Jim Justice there in West Virginia, which I think led to Joe Manchin’s decision to retire. So we’re on the same page as we work through the Senate elections.”
This cycle, the campaign has become far more committed to filtering out candidates it doesn’t believe are viable, both in a primary where Trump conservatives often have the upper hand and in a general election where they need independent votes.
When former Rep. Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump, entered the Michigan Senate primary earlier this month, the NRSC immediately warned that voters would not be “enthusiastic” about him in a general election.
Looking back on 2022, “I mean, that was a disaster,” Daines said.
Republicans narrowly won the House of Representatives and Democrats took control of the Senate, despite historic tailwinds for the party that does not control the White House.
“I hate losing, I like winning,” he added, recalling the missteps he recognized as an opportunity for change as he assumed his leadership role.
“I’ve started recruiting candidates and making sure that we can find candidates that appeal not only to the Republican base but also to independent voters because that’s what’s going to determine this election,” Daines said. “Elections are not decided on election day, but on election day.”
In one race, Kari Lake of Arizona lost a statewide election last cycle and still managed to secure a Trump endorsement. While the NRSC did not comment officially, they expressed high praise for Lake.
Kari Lake is the top GOP candidate for the open Senate seat in Arizona
“She is one of the most talented politicians we have in the 2024 cycle,” Daines said.
Trump took a liking to Lake when, as a gubernatorial candidate in 2022, she aggressively criticized his own 2020 election fraud allegations.
Lake, who has yet to admit she did not win the 2022 gubernatorial race, received Trump’s endorsement the day she entered the race in October. Days later, she received the support of another Senate Republican — John Barrasso, Wyo.
Daines, for his part, insists Lake will be “the candidate” in Arizona and says the two have become “friends.”
He gave her advice: “I think what Kari is doing and needs to continue to do is focus on the issues of the future, the issues that matter most to independent voters: the high gas prices, the out-of-control high food prices , the southern border, the rampant crime, the weakness of the Biden administration.”
“If she continues to focus on the issues that voters here care about, especially independent voters, she will win the race in Arizona.”
In Washington, Daines serves as a bridge between Trump and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Although the two worked closely together in Trump’s first administration, they have severed all ties.
Two alarming public shutdowns in just a few months raised questions about how long the 81-year-old McConnell’s time at the helm would last.
Daines defended McConnell, insisting that it will be “up to him” whether he continues to lead Senate Republicans beyond 2024 – and perhaps try again to work with Trump in the White House.
“In the two freezes he had, he was very clear about what happened there. “It was actually the after-effects of a concussion he sustained in March,” Daines said. “I serve with him every day. He’s very sharp and it’s crisp and snappy as always.”