High-profile ex-Trump aides eye political office in 2022

Trump is ready to ‘move on and rebuild the Republican Party’: Sen. Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tells ‘Fox News Sunday’ he is ‘ready to work with’ the former president moving forward. He argues Trump’s speech was ‘politically protected’ and ‘did not cause the riot’ on Capitol Hill.

Former President Donald Trump is not on the ballot in next year’s elections, but some of his closest advisers and aides in the White House and on his 2020 reelection team are mulling bids of their own in what could be a test run of the clout of the Trump brand going forward.

Last month former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders launched her 2022 campaign for governor in her native state of Arkansas.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS

While most Americans know Sanders from her time in Trump’s White House, back home in Arkansas she has also long been well known for her political pedigree. Sanders is the daughter of former longtime Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who later grabbed national attention as a two-time Republican presidential candidate. She also managed John Boozman’s successful bid for Senate in Arkansas in 2010 and four years later advised then-Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on his successful campaign for the Senate.

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders smiles as she speaks during an off-camera press briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP)

While Sanders is the only declared candidate, others are mulling bids.

The former president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is mulling a Senate run for the open seat in 2022 in her native North Carolina.

The 38-year old wife of Trump’s son Eric and a former TV producer who was a senior adviser of the then-president’s 2020 reelection campaign got a boost Sunday from Sen. Lindsey Graham, a major ally and supporter of her father-in-law.

GRAHAM TOUTS LARA TRUMP AS FRONTRUNNER FOR GOP SENATE NOMINATION IN NORTH CAROLINA

Graham said the vote by retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina on Saturday to convict Trump in his impeachment trial will make the former president’s daughter-in-law a shoo-in to win the 2022 Republican nomination to succeed Burr.

“The biggest winner of this whole impeachment trial I think is Lara Trump,” Graham forecast on “Fox News Sunday.” “My dear friend Richard Burr, who I like and I’ve been friends to a long time, just made Lara Trump almost the certain nominee for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs and I certainly would be behind her because I think she represents the future of the Republican Party.”

Also contemplating a run for office is Ric Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration. Grenell is considered a potential gubernatorial candidate in California this year if Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is recalled.

GRENELL DODGES QUESTIONS ON WHETHER HE’LL RUN FOR CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR

But Grenell, in an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” twice dodged questions on whether he’ll launch a campaign.

Asked by host Maria Bartiromo if he’s considering a gubernatorial bid, Grenell said, “Look, I’m not trying to be cute, Maria, I really just want to focus on long-term solutions in California that’s going to take five, six years for somebody to really reform this place.”

Another potential 2022 contender from the former president’s inner circle considering a 2022 run is longtime top Trump political adviser Corey Lewandowski, who is mulling a potential gubernatorial bid in his home state of New Hampshire.

“I have to do what’s best for me and my family and what I think would best in the interests of the people of New Hampshire,” Lewandowski told Fox News last month.

President Donald Trump’s campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski, center, speaks about a court order obtained to grant more access to vote counting operations at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Philadelphia, following Tuesday’s election. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Sanders’ candidacy and the potential runs by others from Trump world come while the former president vows to play an influential role in GOP politics going forward as he threatens to support primary challengers against Republicans who have crossed him who are up for reelection in 2022. And it comes as he’s also flirting with a presidential run in 2024 to try to return to the White House.

After his acquittal in his impeachment trial on Saturday, Trump touted in a statement that “our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun. In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.”

The former president teased that “we have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future.”

While the former president was politically weakened by the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters intent on disrupting the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, Trump remains very popular and influential among Republican voters.

MCCONNELL THREATENS TO OPPOSE POTENTIAL TRUMP-BACKED SENATE CANDIDATES IF THEY’RE NOT ELECTABLE

Campaigns by members of the Trump inner circle in 2022 could be a barometer of Trump’s clout going forward.

Longtime Republican consultant Dave Carney told Fox News that the key will be “what people think a year from now when the primaries are happening … whether they think the Trump brand is a positive thing or a negative thing.”

But Carney, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns over the past couple of decades, noted that so many other factors – including candidate quality and where the races are taking place – are at play and that being close to Trump is not “a get elected card” nor does it “guaranteed failure.”

“It’s not a determinative factor either way,” he emphasized.

The potential bids by some of the Trump loyalists come amid a fight over the future of the GOP – whether or not it remains the party the then-president reshaped and ruled over during his four years in the White House.

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The de facto GOP leader in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has indicated he may not be on the same page as Trump when it comes to his mission to retake the Senate majority in 2022.

“My goal is, in every way possible, to have nominees representing the Republican Party who can win in November,” McConnell told Politico on Saturday. “Some of them may be people the former president likes. Some of them may not be. The only thing I care about is electability.”

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