GOP's lackluster midterms showing puts Trump on defense, days before his 'big announcement'

Key Points
  • Republicans' weaker-than-expected showing in the midterms spurred some conservatives to lash out at former President Donald Trump.
  • Trump has been quick to respond, launching a string of social media salvos against his perceived enemies in the media and politics — including GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
  • The midterm results have set Trump on the defensive just days before he is scheduled to make a "very big announcement" — widely expected to be the launch of his 2024 presidential campaign.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally to support Republican candidates ahead of midterm elections, in Dayton, Ohio, November 7, 2022.
Gaelen Morse | Reuters

Days before the midterm elections, former President Donald Trump appeared to walk right up to the edge of officially announcing his 2024 presidential campaign.

"I ran twice, I won twice, and did much better the second time than I did the first," Trump said, falsely, at a rally in Iowa. "And now in order to make our country successful and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again."

But that was last week — back when political forecasters and pundits were widely predicting a "red wave" that would carry Republicans to strong congressional majorities.

Though control of the House and Senate are still up in the air, it's clear that the red wave never came, with Republicans underperforming expectations up and down the ballot in key states. That weak showing spurred some conservatives to lash out at Trump, who had boosted losing candidates in numerous high-profile races.

Trump has been quick to respond, launching a string of social media salvos against his perceived enemies in the media and politics — including Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is widely seen as Trump's biggest would-be challenger for the GOP nomination in 2024.

"Despite having picked so many winners, I have to put up with the Fake News," Trump lamented Thursday on Truth Social.

"Big Victory, don't be stupid," Trump wrote in another post Friday morning. "Stand on the rooftops and shout it out loud!"

It's not the first time Trump has been blamed for sabotaging Republicans' election hopes. But the midterm results have set Trump on the defensive just days before he is scheduled to make a "very big announcement" on Nov. 15 — widely expected to be the launch of his 2024 presidential campaign.

Trump has held his status as the de facto Republican Party leader even after losing to President Joe Biden in 2020. After Jan. 6, 2021, when a violent mob spurred by Trump's false claims that the election was stolen stormed the U.S. Capitol, top GOP figures continued to link themselves to Trump and ostracize the few Republicans willing to openly criticize him.

Meanwhile, many GOP candidates sought Trump's endorsement in the midterms, and polls consistently showed him as the clear favorite to win the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

After the red wave failed to materialize Tuesday night, Trump initially claimed that the candidates he backed had performed well. "While in certain ways yesterday's election was somewhat disappointing, from my personal standpoint it was a very big victory," he wrote in one social media post.

Trump claimed that the vast majority of his picks won their elections. But his endorsement didn't seem to help in some of the cycle's most competitive races.

His preferred Senate candidates in Pennsylvania, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and New Hampshire, Don Bolduc, lost to their Democratic opponents, NBC News projections showed. Trump-backed Republican challenger Blake Masters trailed incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly by almost 6 percentage points in the Arizona Senate race where Kelly is the projected winner.

Trump pick Adam Laxalt had a 0.1 percentage point edge, less than 1,000 votes, in Nevada against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto with 94% of the votes in as of Saturday morning, according to NBC News. In Georgia, Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker came in just behind Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, with the race headed to a December runoff.

Trump also endorsed dozens of winning House candidates, but many of those Republicans were in shoe-in races. In the three-dozen elections labeled "Toss Up" by Cook Political Report, Trump endorsed only six Republicans — and five of them lost, according to CNBC's analysis. (The sixth, competing for Arizona's 1st Congressional District, has yet to be called by NBC, but the Democrat appears to hold a slight lead with 80% of the vote in.)

Trump also endorsed Rep. Lauren Boebert, a highly visible MAGA candidate who was expected to easily win reelection in her red Colorado district. With 99% of the vote in, she was just barely squeaking ahead of her Democratic rival, NBC projections show.

Trump's picks also lost high-profile gubernatorial races in New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania, among other key states. And some of Trump's adversaries in the GOP, including DeSantis and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, cruised to victory by wide margins.

With Trump's figure looming large over the midterms, some conservative voices were quick to point the finger at him.

"The surest way to lose in these midterms was to be a politician endorsed by Trump," John Podhoretz wrote in the New York Post, accompanied by a cover page that lampooned the former president as "Trumpty Dumpty." "Trump Is The Republican Party's Biggest Loser," read the title of a post-election opinion piece by the Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

"So sad to see Republicans attack and foolishly tarnish the results of the Midterms," Trump posted in response his conservative critics, while suggesting without evidence that still-undecided elections in Arizona and Nevada are "RIGGED."

Trump has also repeatedly slammed The New York Times, a longtime target, as he denied reporting that he was blaming those in his inner circle for endorsing Oz in Pennsylvania.

"So many of the people I Endorsed went on to victory on Tuesday Night, nobody was even close, and they literally make up a story refusing to write the facts," Trump wrote in one post aimed at the Times.

But even as Trump clashed with his own party, he appeared to be sprinting toward announcing his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination.

"We had tremendous success — why would anything change?" Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

Longtime Trump aide Jason Miller said Friday morning that Trump will definitely be announcing his campaign next Tuesday.

"I spoke with the President Trump this morning. He was on the golf course and I talked to him about Tuesday which is really his focus," Miller said on the podcast of Steve Bannon, a former senior Trump advisor, NBC reported.

"He said, 'There doesn't need to be any question. Of course I'm running. I'm going to do this and I want to make sure that people know that I'm fired up and we got to get the country back,'" Miller said.

Trump's announcement is set for next Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET at his Mar-a-Lago resort home, according to an invitation that went out Thursday night.