Voters, even more importantly, believe in him. They see honesty in his blunt talk, and realness in his status as a political newcomer. It does not matter what Republican elites or mainstream media say about his positions; his supporters are his most ardent defenders, attacking his detractors and accusing them of duplicity. It’s possible, then, that Trump voters will listen when he vouches for down-ballot candidates. If Trump’s word has gotten him this far in the election, perhaps his word will swing voters in other races. If his supporters believe in the politically untenable traits of his policy proposals—like the border wall and his anti-Muslim policy—why wouldn’t they believe in the candidates he supports?
Tuesday’s North Carolina primary could hypothetically offer the first glimpse of a “Trump bump.” Ellmers is fighting off multiple opponents in her primary race, which is turning out to be a virtual proxy war between pro- and anti-Trump forces. In addition to her opponents for the seat—including fellow House member George Holding—she is also facing big-spending conservative groups who are no fans of the Republican nominee. Ellmers has taken heat from anti-abortion groups for briefly derailing a 20-week ban, an echo of activists’ disdain for Trump’s own past comments on abortion. The Club for Growth has spent millions against both Trump and Ellmers combined, accusing both candidates of being liberal on fiscal issues. And Americans for Prosperity—which mounted a grassroots campaign against Ellmers for similar reasons—signaled its distaste for Trump by withholding support altogether so far this cycle. NPR reports that Ellmers is “fighting for her political life” in the primary. But having Trump’s support could potentially give her cred among voters with an independent streak, who would appreciate her occasional centrism. After all, anti-Trump groups repeatedly targeted his spotty conservatism in the primary, but those efforts did not hurt him with supporters, many of whom were new to primary voting.
“I need her help in Washington so we can work together to defeat ISIS, secure our border, and bring back jobs—and frankly, so many other things. And Renee knows how to do it,” Trump said in a robocall released this weekend. “She gets it. And together, we will make America great again.”
It’s not clear whether more endorsements from Trump are to come. His campaign did not respond to requests for comment. If Trump were a more conventional candidate, his withholding endorsements until now would have been surprising. (Bernie Sanders, for example, was criticized this spring for not helping the down-ballot candidates who’d backed him.) Of course, House and Senate candidates also might not welcome Trump’s endorsement the way they would a typical nominee’s; the Republican majorities in both chambers are vulnerable with Trump at the top of the ticket. Many contenders, particularly in the Senate, are distancing themselves in an attempt to hold onto their seats.