President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he plans to devote much of his time this year to helping Republicans maintain control of the U.S. Congress, but suggested he may stay out of divisive intra-party primary fights.
"I am going to spend probably four or five days a week helping people because we need more Republicans," the Republican president said in an interview with Reuters. "To get the real agenda through, we need more Republicans."
Trump indicated he would avoid endorsing candidates in Republican primaries, as he did last year in Alabama's Senate race, when the incumbent he endorsed was defeated by a hard-line conservative challenger, and would likely focus on the November general election in which Democrats are trying to wrest control of Congress from the Republicans.
"It's hard sometimes. Sometimes you really like three candidates — that's a very tough position to be in. But we have places where I like all of the candidates," Trump said. "But I will be very much involved with — beyond the primaries — with the election itself, very very much."
Trump is scheduled to travel to western Pennsylvania on Thursday in support of Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate in a special election to replace Republican U.S. Representative Tim Murphy, who resigned in October amid a sex scandal.
Trump said he is traveling to Pennsylvania to give Saccone his "total support."
Thirty-four seats in the Senate and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be contested in November's midterm elections. Democrats need to add a net total of two seats to assume control of the 100-seat Senate and 24 seats to take over the House.
Fractious Republican primary battles already are developing in states including Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin, where some of the candidates are backed by Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief political strategist who he fired last August.
Before Bannon had a public falling-out with the president over the former adviser's comments in a new book about the Trump White House, the expectation had been that Bannon's involvement might tempt Trump to interject himself into some those fights.
Now that appears much less likely.