President Donald Trump on March 2, 2019, at the Conservative Political Action Conference at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md. (Official White House photo by Tia Dufour, via Wikimedia Commons)
TOPEKA — Former President Donald Trump blessed Monday the Republican campaign for governor of Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
The low-key endorsement was delivered in a statement through Trump’s Save America political action committee and affirmed by Schmidt’s campaign in a five-paragraph news release.
Trump said Schmidt had done an admirable job as attorney general since taking office in 2011 and winning re-election twice as the state’s top law enforcement officer.
“He is now running for Governor and will be a popular and very wise choice,” Trump’s statement said. “Derek is strong on Crime, the Borders and our always-under-siege Second Amendment. He loves our Military and our Vets. Derek Schmidt has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
Schmidt, the GOP frontrunner since withdrawal of former Gov. Jeff Colyer, said on social media he appreciated the 45th president’s support.
“Thank you, Mr. President,” Schmidt said. “Kansas was better off with your America First leadership in the White House, and I’m genuinely grateful for your support as we work hard to bring pro-America, pro-freedom, pro-family and pro-jobs policies to the Kansas governor’s office next year.”
In the 2020 election, Trump easily won Kansas with 56.2% of the vote against the 41.5% earned by Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Biden prevailed in the national election, leaving Trump as a one-term president.
Trump has continued to make a case for the false belief that Biden won by virtue of election fraud, which hasn’t been substantiated through a flurry of inquiries.
Secretary of State Scott Schwab, a Republican, declared in 2021 that Kansas voters benefitted from a “free and fair” election in 2020.
Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka, said the decision by Schmidt to embrace the Trump endorsement recognized the former president’s popularity among Kansas Republicans. He also said it was instructive Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin won a campaign for governor in 2021. Youngkin welcomed a Trump endorsement that kept conservatives in the fold and avoided expressing unreserved fealty to Trump to avoid alienating moderates.
“The Virginia race showed that a Republican can get a Trump endorsement without having to give him the bear hug and big wet kiss,” Beatty said.
Beatty said the unresolved question was whether Schmidt would invite the former president to a rally in Kansas close to the November general election.
Gov. Laura Kelly, the Democrat seeking re-election, is the clear favorite to win the party’s nomination. In 2018, she defeated GOP nominee Kris Kobach. She outpaced Kobach by 50,000 votes and claimed 48.3% of votes cast compared to the Republican’s 40.6%.
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