As they dial for dollars, GOP congressional candidates are pondering a strategic dilemma. Embrace Donald Trump, appeal to the party's base, or forge a personal brand all their own?
Many candidates, especially first-timers, may feel a natural urge to push off the charged decision until campaign season is in full swing. “Isn't it a risk to decide so early in the race? What if the political climate changes?”
Waiting isn't a strategy. Successful campaigns build a cohesive and consistent narrative that targets a winning coalition of voters from the moment they announce. And they keep up that sustained appeal until the polls close.
To be sure, there's no guarantee President Trump will be at odds with the GOP establishment by November 2018. Republicans still have time to score meaningful legislative victories on tax reform and health care. But as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon made clear during his recent 60 Minutes interview, should Congress stall Trump's agenda, the grenade throwers eagerly await internecine warfare.
Eyes are mainly on presidential approval ratings these days. But congressional approval ratings are woeful across the board. Recent polling data shows Trump faring much better than Congressional Republicans among Republican voters. The numbers are so grim that some seasoned campaign pros believe candidates are better off standing by Trump.