- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

National Republicans won’t demand that candidates declare allegiance to President Trump in order to get financial backing this year, the party’s main political committees tell The Washington Times.

Mitt Romney, seeking a Senate nomination in Utah, was the latest prominent figure to refuse to commit to supporting Mr. Trump in 2020, sparking questions over how far the Republican Party will go in demanding loyalty to its titular leader.

The Republican National Committee — run by Trump pick Ronna Romney McDaniel, who is also Mr. Romney’s niece — said there is no litmus test, though the RNC said supporting the president is the right move.

“President Trump has an unparalleled ability to rally the base of the Republican Party, and we always advise Republicans to support the President as he fights for all Americans,” said Steve Guest, a party spokesman.

The party’s two other big national fundraising operations, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Congressional Committee, ducked the question of whether they would support non-Trump Republicans.

The NRCC said it was a reach to even wonder.

“Are you planning to ask the DCCC whether they will support and spend money on candidates who are already on the record opposing Nancy Pelosi for speaker?” said NRCC spokesman Jesse Hunt. “She appoints the DCCC chair and has raised over $50 million for them. That seems like a more relevant story than hypothetical scenarios.”

Like the top committees, some of the party’s candidates in key swing-district races are keeping mum on Mr. Trump and declining to respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Rep. Stephen Knight, California Republican, staked out neutral ground in his hotly contested race in the 25th Congressional District.

“Congressman Knight has never endorsed a candidate for governor or president,” campaign spokesman Matt Rexroad said in an email to The Washington Times.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the national campaign arm of House Democrats, did not respond to requests for comment on Republicans’ challenge about Mrs. Pelosi.

But its record speaks for itself: The DCCC spent $312,000 to elect Conor Lamb to a Pennsylvania congressional seat last month, even though Mr. Lamb repeatedly said it was time for Mrs. Pelosi to be replaced as the Democrats’ leader. It also this year sent more than $350,000 to the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, which poured money into Mr. Lamb’s campaign.

The DCCC also invested in candidates in previous elections who were reluctant to throw public support behind President Obama’s re-election bid.

Andrew Surabian, a Republican strategist and former special assistant to Mr. Trump, said Democrats knew they could boost their numbers by backing candidates even if they publicly disagreed with the party’s leaders.

“On the other hand, Republican entities have traditionally been much less willing to support candidates who publicly oppose Mitch McConnell or other members of congressional leadership, even when there is a political benefit for doing so,” he said. “So if a litmus test for party support includes support for Republican leadership in Congress, shouldn’t it also include support for the president of the United States?”

Mr. Romney could be a good test case.

Speaking with CNN during the Utah Republican Party convention last weekend, Mr. Romney said he assumed Mr. Trump would be the nominee in 2020 but that he wasn’t ready to go all in for the president. The two men sniped at each other repeatedly during the 2016 presidential primaries and general election campaign, and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee gave an entire much-covered speech denouncing Mr. Trump.

“I will make that decision down the road,” said the former Massachusetts governor. “As a person of political experience, if I endorse someone, I’ll want to know what’s in it for Utah and what help would he provide for us on key priorities in Utah.”

Mr. Trump has been more magnanimous, burying his past differences with Mr. Romney and endorsing him in his Senate bid.

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