Former President Donald J. Trump, determined to remain a force in G.O.P. politics, is gaining new opportunities with a crucial Senate seat unexpectedly coming open in Ohio, an ally announcing for governor of Arkansas and rising pressure on Republicans in Congress who did not stand with him during this month’s impeachment vote.
The surprise announcement on Monday by Senator Rob Portman of Ohio that he would not seek a third term sparked a political land rush, with top strategists in the state receiving a flood of phone calls from potential candidates testing their viability. One consultant said he had received calls from five would-be candidates by midday.
That opening, along with another statewide contest next year in which Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to face at least one Trump-aligned primary challenger, is likely to make Ohio a central battleground for control of the Republican Party, and an inviting one for Mr. Trump, who held on to Ohio in the election while losing three other northern battleground states.
Mr. Portman’s announcement came hours after Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Trump’s former White House press secretary, launched her campaign for Arkansas governor. The Republican primary there already includes the state’s lieutenant governor and attorney general, but Ms. Sanders is considered Mr. Trump’s favored candidate, and private polling indicates she’s beginning well ahead in the primary. An endorsement of her candidacy from Mr. Trump is imminent, one Trump adviser said.
Mr. Trump has only been out of the presidential office five days and has little in the way of political infrastructure. He has told aides he would like to take a break for several months.
But the former president has remained the party’s strongest fund-raiser, with tens of millions in PAC money at his disposal, and he retains an enduring base of Republican support across the country. Perhaps most importantly, he harbors a deep-seated desire to punish those he believes have crossed him and reward those who remain loyal. [Continue reading…]