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Senate Minority Whip John Thune said this week that Republicans “welcome” former President Donald Trump’s help in taking back the Senate majority, but repeating his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen “takes our eyes off the ultimate prize.”
“President Trump still has a tremendous following among our supporters across the country and, you know, exercises that influence, or at least attempts to, on a daily basis,” Thune, R-S.D., told Fox News. “But I think ultimately for us as Republican senators our job right now is to try to get the majority back in 2022 and provide that check and balance against this crazy Biden administration agenda.”
Thune, who Trump last year called on to be primaried, announced this week that he will run for reelection after months of speculation. Thune said family factors were pulling him to retire but that goals to block President Biden’s agenda, implement GOP policies and potentially succeed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as the top Republican in the Senate all factored into his decision to run for another six-year term.
The minority whip said winning the Senate will be the top marker of a successful 2022 for Republicans. But he said continued arguments over the presidential election are counterproductive to that goal.
“To the degree that President Trump can be helpful, can contribute to,” taking back the Senate, Thune said, “we welcome that.”
“But I think any time we’re talking about the 2020 election and rehashing that, it takes our eyes off the ultimate prize. And so I think most Republican senators understand that in order for us to be successful as a country that we have to get the majority back in the Senate and that means focusing on the future not the past,” he said. “We welcome the former president’s support of that, but would hope that he would play a constructive role and contribute to helping us win the majority back in 2022.”
Republicans face a tougher path to taking the Senate majority this year than they do in the House. That’s because all House members are up for reelection in 2022, while Republicans are playing defense on their 2016 Senate wins.
With President Biden’s approval rating tanking, the economy flagging and following strong performances in states like Virginia and New Jersey in 2021, Republicans are clearly picking up political momentum.
But McConnell warned last month about the possibility a poor candidate winning a 2022 primary could handicap Republicans in key Senate races. He also alluded to Republicans’ two Senate losses in the Georgia runoffs, which many blamed on Trump’s election claims.
“I’m going to mention four names and ask you a question. Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock,” McConnell said, referencing 2012 GOP Senate candidates who were backed by the Tea Party movement. “What do they all have in common? They’re not senators.”
McConnell added: “I don’t care how you describe yourself, whether consider yourself a Trump candidate or this candidate or that candidate, there are ways to evaluate electability… The primary season lies ahead in the spring. But, you know, it makes a difference who wins. And from our perspective, had we won one seat in Georgia, we wouldn’t have done the [American Rescue Plan]. We wouldn’t be talking about reckless tax and spending.”
And for Thune, a GOP Senate majority is key to making sure those Democrat policies are not in the cards for the final two years of Biden’s term.
“We think it’s critical to the country that there’ll be a check and balance against this crazy radical agenda that the Biden White House and Democrats in Congress are trying to advance,” Thune told Fox News.
Despite Thune’s wishes, it doesn’t appear Trump plans on letting his false claims about the 2020 election go. He said Friday that he’ll be talking about it during his Saturday rally in Arizona.
“Look forward to seeing everyone in Arizona tomorrow! Many topics will be discussed including the Rigged Presidential Election of 2020, the fake Big Lie, the corrupt LameStream Media, the Afghanistan disaster, Inflation, the sudden lack of respect for our Nation and its leaders, and much more,” Trump said.
Thune says Trump’s election claims aren’t productive if GOP wants to win in midterms