Trump eyes dual strategy to flip script against Biden amid legal hurdles: ‘We have the messaging’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Donald Trump heads out on the stump Tuesday in Michigan and Wisconsin, two Midwestern battleground states he narrowly lost to President Biden four years ago, as he looks to take advantage of a weekday campaign rally ahead of his upcoming hush-money trial in a couple of weeks.

The former president's team said the presumptive GOP nominee will take aim at what they charged was President Biden's "Border Bloodbath" during the first stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Trump's campaign swing is his first in two and a half weeks since he headlined a rally in Ohio on March 16 on behalf of the Republican candidate he was backing in the Buckeye State's GOP Senate primary.

The infrequent weekday campaign rallies may become even rarer this spring and summer as Trump becomes the first current or former president in the nation's history to go on trial.


As of now, Trump's hush-money trial is set to begin in New York City on April 15. The former president – who is being tried on 34 state felony charges – is accused of falsifying business records in relation to hush-money payments during the 2016 election he made to Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about his alleged affair with the adult film actress.

Trump has repeatedly denied falsifying business records as well as the alleged sexual encounter with Daniels.


During the Republican presidential primaries, Trump used the multiple criminal and civil cases he faces – including two for his alleged attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden and another for mishandling classified documents – to cast himself as a victim, which fired up support among GOP voters and boosted fundraising.


The former president is required to attend the court proceedings in the hush-money trial, which are scheduled for weekdays, except Wednesdays, and will ground the 74-year-old Trump in the city where he was born and raised and called home until changing his residence to Florida nearly five years ago.

Sources in the former president's political orbit tell Fox News that a schedule's being mapped out that includes making the most of Wednesdays, when court is not in session, as well as weekends, when Trump usually holds rallies and other campaign events.

"We have the message, the operation, and the money to propel President Trump to victory on November 5," Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita predicted last week in a statement.

While Trump's been mostly off the campaign trail, Biden has stopped since delivering the State of the Union address in early March in all six of the crucial battleground states where he narrowly edged Trump to win the White House in 2020. And last week Biden visited North Carolina, which Trump won by a razor-thin margin four years ago.

The trips are aimed at pumping up the president's anemic poll numbers and also to paint a contrast with Trump, who has been sidetracked due to numerous court appearances in New York City and Florida.

In a video posted on X last week, the president's re-election team highlighted Biden's busy schedule and contrasted it with Trump playing golf.

"I’ll tell you this: There’s a difference between the two candidates in this election," Biden wrote in the social media post after Trump bragged on his Truth Social platform about winning two golf championships at a course he owns.

But Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt predicted that the upcoming trial would give the former president a boost against his successor in the White House, and she said in a statement that "Joe Biden and the Democrats’ entire strategy to defeat President Trump is to confine him to a courtroom."

"President Trump has been attacked by the Democrats for eight years. He has stood strong through two sham impeachments, endless lies and now multiple baseless political witch hunts," Leavitt told Fox News Digital in February. "The Democrats want Donald Trump in a courtroom instead of on the campaign trail delivering his winning message to the American people, but nothing will stop him from doing that."

While he'll be sidetracked four out of five weekdays when the trial gets underway, Trump is expected to continue his practice of grabbing the cable news spotlight with his courtroom arrivals and departures. 

And the former president has also used his social media postings on his Truth Social platform to make headlines and drive the campaign conversation.

"Trump can dominate the message environment anytime he wants," longtime Republican strategist Dave Carney told Fox News. "We've never seen anything like this where one guy – whatever he says – gets full coverage. It's a phenomenon. Whether it's social media or cable TV or even broadcast TV, he just dominates the news."

And Carney, a veteran of numerous presidential campaigns, forecast "there will be such coverage of his court cases that at times I would bet there will be more reporters covering his stakeout than covering the president."

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

Former GOP Congressman Justin Amash announces bid for Michigan US Senate seat

Former U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, who left the GOP in 2019 after calling for the impeachment of then-President Donald Trump, announced a Republican bid for Michigan's U.S. Senate seat Thursday.

Amash represented Grand Rapids from 2011 to 2021, and he becomes the third former U.S. representative to join the Republican field vying for Michigan’s open Senate seat. Former U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers and Peter Meijer have also announced Republican campaigns, as has businessman Sandy Pensler.

"I’m convinced that no candidate would be better positioned to win both the Republican primary and the general election," Amash said on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter. "That’s why, today, I’m making it official: I’m joining the race for United States Senate in Michigan."


The decision to jump into the Republican primary comes after Amash left the party to become an independent. He had been the lone House Republican to support a Trump impeachment inquiry in 2019.

He opted not to seek reelection to Congress after his fifth term and to instead pursue a Libertarian nomination for president. At the time, Amash said that millions of Americans do not feel well represented by either major political party.

Amash seems to have come back to the party, but he promised in his announcement to be "an independent-minded senator prepared to challenge anyone and everyone on the people’s behalf," if elected.

Amash, whose father is Palestinian and his mother Syrian, was the first Palestinian American lawmaker to serve in the U.S. Congress. Earlier this year, Amash said on social media that several relatives were killed when an Israeli airstrike struck a church in Gaza City.

Michigan's U.S. Senate race is expected to be the lone competitive open seat in the country this year. Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced last January that she would not seek reelection after having served in the upper chamber since 2001.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is considered the favorite to win the nomination and has dominated other candidates in fundraising — bringing in $11.7 million between her campaign launch in February 2023 and the end of that year.

Rogers, who served seven terms in the U.S. House, has led all Republicans in fundraising. The Republican race is expected to be highly competitive, with Meijer and Pensler each having the ability to at least partially self-fund their campaigns. Former Detroit police Chief James Craig dropped his Republican bid earlier this month.


Amash and Meijer — who are both from Grand Rapids — will each face the difficult task of overcoming past support for impeachments of Trump. Meijer was among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021 after the deadly mob siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump wields significant influence over Republicans in Michigan, and his endorsement for the U.S. Senate seat has the potential to dramatically impact the outcome of the race.

The GOP has not won a Michigan U.S. Senate race since 1994.

Defending the Michigan seat could prove crucial for Democrats in their effort to maintain the Senate, where the party holds a 51-49 majority and also faces tough headwinds as they defend seats in Republican-leaning states from West Virginia to Montana and Ohio.

Ex-House Republican who voted to impeach Trump running for Senate in Michigan

Former U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., whose family founded the Meijer supermarket chain, is running for his state’s vacant Senate seat.

Meijer lost his seat after he and nine other House Republicans voted to impeach former President Trump over the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

"My wife and I prayed hard about this race and how we can best serve our state and our nation. We considered every aspect of the campaign, and we are confident we have the best chance of taking back this seat for the Republicans and fighting hard for a conservative future," Meijer said in his campaign debut on Monday morning.


"We are in dark and uncertain times, but we have made it through worse. The challenges are great, but so is our country. If we are to see another great American century, we need leaders who aren’t afraid to be bold, will do the work, and can’t be bought."

Meijer had lost the 2022 Republican primary for his House seat to former Trump administration official John Gibbs. 


As part of a strategy to ensure an easier path to victory in general elections, House Democrats’ campaign arm targeted Meijer and other Republicans in swing districts by elevating more polarizing rivals.

Gibbs, who ran to Meijer’s right, subsequently lost to freshman Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Mich.

Senate Republicans are eyeing Michigan as a prime pickup opportunity after Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced she would not seek re-election. 

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., is the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to replace her.


Meanwhile, Meijer joins an increasingly competitive GOP primary. Former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., is also in the race after being courted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Republicans’ campaign arm. 


Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig is also in the field of candidates.

Meijer’s family founded and owns the primarily-Midwestern Meijer supermarket chain. The one-term Republican congressman is also an Army Reserve veteran, having served in Iraq.

Long-shot GOP presidential candidate Perry Johnson considering Senate bid in battleground Michigan

Long-shot Republican presidential candidate Perry Johnson isn't ruling out a run for the open Senate seat in battleground Michigan.

"Obviously, it’s no secret that I’ve had a lot of calls to run for this seat because they do want to win this seat. But at this point in time, my focus is right on the presidential [race], and, believe me, that’s taking all my time and energy at this point," Johnson said Thursday in a Fox News Digital interview.

The Michigan businessman and quality control industry expert failed to qualify for the first two Republican presidential nomination debates, including Wednesday's second showdown, a FOX Business co-hosted event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Johnson now faces an even steeper climb to make the stage at the third showdown in early November in Miami, Florida, because the Republican National Committee continues to raise polling and donor thresholds the candidates need to reach to qualify for the upcoming debates.


Pointing to the polling threshold for the third GOP debate, Johnson said "4% is a big bar."

"When you’re an outsider, it’s very hard to get on the debate stage because, not only do you have to hit the poll numbers, then you have to have them [the RNC] say these polls are OK." He criticized the national party committee for not recognizing certain polls that don't meet its standards.

Johnson emphasized that, when it comes to his White House campaign, "right now, I think the plan is to go all in, in an individual state. If you’re not on the debate stage, that has to be the approach you take. …. The issue is to get to 4% nationally. 

"You can really only focus on one thing at a time, and when you’re running for president, it’s a full time for job."


Johnson ran last year for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination in Michigan and was considered a top contender before he and four other Republican hopefuls were disqualified because of invalid signatures. He has poured millions of his own money into his 2024 presidential campaign.

As Republicans aim to win back the Senate majority in 2024, they're eyeing Michigan, where longtime Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow is retiring rather than seeking another term.

"As you can imagine, I get inundated with calls because of the fact that Michigan has an open seat," Johnson said. "It’s literally a seat that Republicans have not had in Michigan in a long time."

Former longtime Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, who served as House Intelligence Committee chair during his last four years in office, launched a GOP Senate campaign earlier this month. Former Rep. Peter Meijer, who backed the impeachment of President Donald Trump, has formed an exploratory committee.

And Michigan State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, businessperson Michael Hoover and attorney Alexandria Taylor have filed to run for the GOP Senate nomination.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination in a field that also includes actor and businessman Hill Harper, state Board of Education President Pamela Pugh and former state Rep. Leslie Love. 

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

Biden nearly stumbles exiting Air Force One, hours after exposed efforts by team to prevent more falls

President Biden nearly took a tumble down the stairs while getting off Air Force Once in Michigan on Tuesday, hours after it was exposed that his campaign team was making efforts to prevent the president from taking a spill in public during the election season.

The 80-year-old president had just landed in Detroit when he disembarked from the jumbo jet at Detroit Metro Airport.

Around the eighth step, Biden was seen slipping before quickly correcting his balance and continuing down the steps.


Earlier this year, the White House physician diagnosed Biden with "significant spinal arthritis." Since then, he has had multiple tripping incidents that have many people questioning his age and whether he is fit to serve as president.

To prevent another embarrassing fall, Axios reported Tuesday, Biden's team is making a conscious effort to have him wear tennis shoes and limit stair climbs.


He is also undergoing physical therapy with specialist Drew Contreras, who worked with former President Barack Obama. Contreras has recommended several exercises to improve the president’s balance, the outlet reported.

Observers noted when Biden began wearing sneakers in public this summer after his nasty fall at the Air Force Academy in June. He also began boarding Air Force One via shorter stairs to a lower level, another move aimed at preventing falls.


A fall in public during the election season could have crippling effects on Biden’s campaign as he is already scrutinized heavily for his age.

In an Associated Press poll this summer, 77% said Biden is too old to be effective for four more years, with 89% of Republicans taking that position along with 69% of Democrats.

Another poll from the Washington Post and ABC News this week found that 3 out of 5 Democrats would prefer someone else be the party's 2024 nominee.

Fox News Digital's Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.

Michigan Republican announces bid to flip 1 of dozens of NRCC’s Democratic target seats in 2024

EXCLUSIVE – Michael Markey announced his campaign to become the Republican nominee for Michigan's 3rd Congressional District.

The announcement makes him the immediate frontrunner to take on Rep. Hillary Scholten, who narrowly won the seat in 2022. 

The 3rd District is seen as a key pickup for Republicans to maintain their majority in the House of Representatives. 

"It is with great humility and excitement that I announce my campaign for Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District," Markey said in a statement exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital. "As a businessman, husband and father, I am concerned about the path our country is taking. We need a disruptor who will stand up to the Washington status quo that has gotten us into this mess. It is time for bold ideas to address inflation, usher in an era of energy independence, and disrupt the traditional ways of doing things in Washington."


"I am humbled by the support my campaign is already receiving, and I look forward to campaigning against Congresswoman Scholten and her radical agenda that threatens our Michigan way of life," the Grand Haven businessman added. 

According to his campaign, Markey is a lifelong Michigander and entrepreneur. He started his first business – a claw machine at a local restaurant – when he was just 14 years old. 

On the heels of the 2009 financial crisis, he launched a successful investment firm, his campaign says. Markey's "days as an entrepreneur taught him how to disrupt the status quo with a result-driven mentality. Michael and his wife Vanessa have three children, who Mike says challenge and delight them daily." 

Markey previously ran among a crowded pool of GOP candidates gunning to oust Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Last summer, however, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled he and four other GOP candidates should not be included on the 2022 ballot after failing to turn in enough valid signatures to qualify for the August primary. 

Conservative Tudor Dixon won the GOP nomination but ultimately failed to defeat Whitmer in the general election. 


In March of this year, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that it will target 37 Democratic seats in 2024 in a bid to expand the House majority. Michigan's 3rd District was included on that list, and Markey is the first to tap in on that GOP offensive line. 

Scholten, a former social worker and immigration attorney, defeated Trump-backed political newcomer John Gibbs in November, making her the first woman to represent Grand Rapids in the U.S. House and the first Democrat from the area since 1977, according to the Michigan Advance. Gibbs made waves for his comments attacking women's suffrage after winning the GOP primary against former Rep. Peter Meijer, who supported former President Donald Trump's impeachment following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 

In a profile published in the Michigan Advance Sunday, Scholten spoke of a "strong sisterhood in Congress" amid the growing number of women representatives. 

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., the chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, described Scholten as a "real standout in this freshman class" who is leading the charge on key issues such as gun reform and combating child labor. For the Democratic Women’s Caucus, Frankel said the "abortion issue is at the top of the list" of priorities. 


"She’s moved up pretty quickly in her short term," Frankel said of Scholten, who was named a ranking member to the Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure within the U.S. House Committee on Small Business and vice ranking member on the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on the Coast Guard. "She’s got an energy, and it’s like, ‘I’m a mom, and I’m here to fight for the families of this country.’"

In her first legislation introduced to Congress, Scholten and Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., co-sponsored a bill last week that would significantly increase civil monetary penalties for those who violate child labor laws. The bills come after a recent New York Times piece revealed how migrant children "work brutal jobs across the U.S."

Democrats embrace meddling in Republican primaries, celebrate ‘MAGA extremist’ victory in Michigan House race

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is embracing its strategy of meddling in Republican primaries following Tuesday's upset victory of John Gibbs over incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District.

In an exclusive statement to Fox News Digital, the DCCC — the campaign organization responsible for running hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads to boost Gibbs in the primary — celebrated his victory, and referred to him as a "MAGA extremist" that would ensure Democrats would retake the seat in November.

"Last night, Donald Trump’s dream became the GOP’s nightmare. John Gibbs’ winning this primary seals the fate of Republicans hoping to keep this now Democratic-leaning district," the DCCC said in the statement.

"An anti-choice radical who sided with violent insurrectionists and would throw out your vote if he doesn’t like it, Gibbs is no match for Hillary Scholten, who has dedicated her career to bringing people together to get things done. Republicans have no choice but to embrace their unelectable MAGA extremist candidate," the DCCC added.


Gibbs narrowly came out on top in a race that drew national attention following Meijer's vote to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol last year.

Meijer's vote drew the ire of Trump, who thrust his support behind Gibbs last fall in a continued effort to oust those who supported his failed impeachment.

Meijer's campaign blasted the DCCC following his loss to Gibbs, telling Fox News Digital in an exclusive statement that Democrats were responsible for ousting a member of Congress willing to "stand up for the Constitution."

"In a close race, $425k in free television advertisements from the Democrats certainly helped John Gibbs. There is no doubt about that," said Kevin Seifert, an adviser to Meijer's campaign. "The Democrats didn’t want to face Peter Meijer in a general election, so they propped up and actively funded a Trump-endorsed candidate. It’s that simple." 

"Democrats got the match-up they wanted and in the process, threw overboard one of the few members of the House Republican Conference who was willing to stand on principle and stand up for the Constitution. It’s reprehensible," he added.


The DCCC has also drawn sharp criticism for its election meddling from some House Democrats, including Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., who called it "unconscionable," and accused the organization of supporting candidates who want to "destroy our democracy."

The Justice Democrats, a left-wing group supported by "Squad" member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., reacted to the meddling by accusing the DCCC of being more willing to support Republicans than progressive Democrats.

The DCCC, however, has continued to defend its strategy, telling Fox News Digital that it would "do what it takes" to maintain control of the House of Representatives in November.

"The DCCC is laser focused on holding the House majority and will do what it takes to keep the speaker's gavel out of McCarthy's hands," spokesperson Matt Corrodoni said.

Gibbs will now face Democrat nominee Hillary Scholten in what is expected to be one of the most closely watched races in this year's midterms.

Trump’s sway over GOP still strong as his endorsed candidates win key primaries Tuesday

It has been a year and a half since former President Trump left the White House, but the results from the latest round of primaries proves that his immense grip over the Republican Party remains firm.

While the biggest headline from Tuesday’s primaries in five states was the resounding victory in Kansas for abortion rights activists – in the first ballot box test of legalized abortion since the blockbuster June decision by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling – candidates backed by Trump came out on top in high-profile contests that grabbed plenty of national attention.

"Fantastic night in Michigan! Tudor Dixon will be a great Governor," the former president exclaimed on Truth Social, the social media platform founded by one of his companies.

Dixon, a conservative commentator and former online news host, won Michigan’s GOP gubernatorial primary by double digits over her rivals and will face off in November against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the key Midwestern battleground state.


Trump praised Dixon in April at a rally he headlined in Michigan, but he held off on endorsing the candidate until Friday, backing her after a new round of public opinion polls indicated her growing lead in the Republican nomination contest. The former president also held a tele-rally on Dixon's behalf the eve of the primary.

Meddling in the race by the Democratic Governors Association appeared unsucessful. The group, which supports Democratic incumbents and candidates in gubernatorial races, spent seven-figures trying to knock off Dixon in the final weeks of the primary campaign.

The former president also scored another big win in Michigan, with the primary defeat of Rep. Peter Meijer, one of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach the then-president for inciting the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

Meijer, an Iraq War veteran who was elected to Congress in 2020, had been targeted by the former president over his impeachment vote and his comments that Trump was "unfit for office." The former president endorsed John Gibbs, a former software developer who served in the Trump administration as an acting assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 


Gibbs, a strong supporter of Trump’s repeated unproven claims that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged" due to "massive voter fraud," narrowly edged Meijer in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, on the western side of the state’s lower peninsula, a seat House Democrats view as competitive in November’s midterm elections.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is hoping to flip the district from red to blue as it tries to hold onto the party’s razor-thin majority in the chamber in the midterms, sees Gibbs as a weaker general election candidate than Meijer. Additionally, the DCCC meddled in the Republican primary, spending big bucks to boost Gibbs conservative credentials.

"John Gibbs WON with a big surge in the end. Not a good time for Impeachers," Trump touted.

Meijer was not the only House Republican on the ballot on Tuesday who voted to impeach Trump. GOP Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington State were facing multiple primary challengers — including candidates backed by Trump. Election results were still being counted in Washington, and no calls were made in either race as of early Wednesday morning. Washington conducts what is known as a jungle primary, in which the top two vote-getters — regardless of party affiliation — advance to the general election.

The former president also celebrated in Arizona, where a handful of candidates he endorsed – and who heavily supported Trump’s continued re-litigation of the 2020 election in a state that Biden narrowly won in the 2020 presidential election – came out on top.


Trump-endorsed venture capitalist Blake Masters won the GOP Senate primary. Masters’ bid was also backed and heavily supported by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, his former boss. Thiel pumped $15 million of his own money into a super PAC that boosted Masters, who will face off in November against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in a key battleground state race that may determine if the GOP wins back the Senate majority.

Trump-backed Mark Finchem – who claims that the 2020 election in Arizona’s Pima County was stolen – won the Republican nomination for Secretary of State.

In the gubernatorial primary, the race for the GOP nomination was still too close to call. Kari Lake, a former TV news anchor backed by Trump, held a slight edge early Wednesday over real estate developer and Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence and term-limited Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.


Trump also claimed victory in Missouri’s high-profile and combustible GOP Senate primary, where state Attorney General Eric Schmitt came out on top in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt.

After teasing on Monday that he would be making an endorsement in the race, Trump declined to choose between Schmitt and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who were two of the three leading contenders in the primary race.

Instead, Trump gave his support to both of them, as he backed "ERIC" on the eve of the primary.

"Great going "Eric." Big Night. Thank you!" Trump wrote after Schmitt’s victory.

While some Trump-backed candidates went down to defeat in high-profile contests earlier this primary season, Tuesday’s primaries once again prove that the former president remains the most popular, influential, and powerful politician in the GOP, as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in party primaries and appears to move closer to announcing another White House bid in 2024.

"Trump’s endorsed candidates had a good night. His endorsement record in GOP primaries remains very strong. Sometimes he rides the wave and endorses obvious winners late, sometimes he creates the wave. The more he wins, the more he is feared by GOP candidates," veteran Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told Fox News.

However, Democrats view victories by some Trump-backed GOP contenders in Republican primaries as gifts, giving them what they view are easier targets to attack. 

In a taste of things to come, Sen. Kelly’s re-election campaign blasted Masters, charging that Arizona’s GOP Senate nominee has "dangerous beliefs that are wildly out of step with Arizona and harmful to Arizona families – like a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest and privatizing social security."

Mackowiak noted that "the more Trump pulls unproven GOP candidates over the primary finish line, the more he will be responsible for general election wins and losses with the stakes as high as they are."

Primary election polls closing in states where Trump, Pence, abortion are in the spotlight

Polls have begun to close in Michigan, Missouri and Kansas, where former President Donald Trump’s immense sway over the Republican Party is once again at play in the GOP primary elections.

On the ballot Tuesday in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington are high-profile gubernatorial, Senate and House nomination showdowns. Arizona polls will close at 10 p.m. ET and Washington's elections will end at 11 p.m. ET.

Also in the spotlight: three House Republicans who voted to impeach the then-president over the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol are fighting for their political lives as they face Trump-backed challengers; a proxy war between Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence; and a member of the so-called "Squad" of diverse, progressive House Democrats faces a primary challenge. 

Kansas voters will weigh in on abortion in the first ballot box test since the Supreme Court’s conservative majority in June overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, sending the combustible issue of legalized abortion back to the states.


Here is what to watch.


Trump on Monday backed "ERIC" in Missouri's high-profile and combative GOP Senate nomination race, on the eve of the state's primary.

After teasing hours earlier that he would be making an endorsement in the race, Trump declined to choose between two of the three front-runners in the primary: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.

Instead, Trump gave his support to both of them.


Schmitt, who has won two statewide elections in Missouri — for treasurer and later for attorney general — has made headlines over the past year and a half, filing numerous lawsuits against President Biden's administration. He has topped the latest surveys in the race.

Greitens, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who left office in 2018 amid multiple controversies, was once the clear front-runner in the primary race, but for months has been fighting allegations from his ex-wife that he abused her and their child. Greitens denies the claims.


There is a long list of Republicans who fear that Greitens' political baggage could put what should be a relatively safe GOP seat in jeopardy come November. An anti-Greitens super PAC has spent more than $6 million this summer to run ads targeting the former governor.

The two Erics, along with Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who represents Missouri’s 4th Congressional District in the predominantly rural west-central part of the state, top a field of over 20 Missouri Republicans vying for the party’s Senate nomination, in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.

Among the others in the Republican race are Rep. Billy Long in the state’s 7th Congressional District in southwest Missouri, and Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis attorney who, along with his wife, grabbed national headlines during the summer of 2020 for holding guns outside their home to ward off Black Lives Matter protesters.

The winner of Tuesday's GOP primary will likely face off in November against either Trudy Busch Valentine, a philanthropist and beer family heiress, or Lucas Kunce, a former U.S. Marine who is running an aggressive populist-style campaign and who landed the endorsement of progressive champion Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday. The two candidates are the polling front-runners in a crowded field of 11 Democratic contenders.

Missouri was once a competitive state but has trended Republican in recent decades. The winner of the GOP Senate primary will be considered the favorite in November’s general election.


Trump and Pence are at odds in the GOP gubernatorial primary in the race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. 

The former president is backing former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who is a strong supporter of Trump’s repeated and unproven claims that his 2020 election loss to President Biden was due to massive voter fraud. 

Pence, along with Ducey, endorsed real estate developer and Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson. Trump and Pence were both in Arizona on the same day a week and a half ago, headlining competing campaign events.

Lake and Taylor Robson are the two front-runners in the GOP primary, with the winner likely facing off in November with Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is the leading contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the one-time red state that has become a top general election battleground between the two major parties.


Trump, at his rally in Prescott Valley, Arizona — about 90 miles north of Phoenix — also showcased his support for venture capitalist Blake Masters in the state’s GOP Senate primary. Masters’ bid has also been backed and heavily supported by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, his former boss. The other top contenders in the race include businessman Jim Lamon, who's pumped millions of his own money behind his bid; Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich; and retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire, who until last year served as adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard.

The winner of the primary will face off in the general election with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, whom the GOP views as one of the most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbents running for re-election this year.


Trump headlined a primary eve tele-rally for conservative commentator and former online news host Tudor Dixon, the gubernatorial candidate in Michigan he endorsed on Friday after new polls indicated her growing lead in the Republican nomination contest.

Among the other top competitors in the race to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November are businessman Kevin Rinke, a former owner of the Rinke Automotive Group, one of the nation’s oldest car dealership groups; chiropractor Garrett Soldano, who helped lead a ballot drive to repeal the law Whitmer used to issue COVID-19 restrictions; real estate broker Ryan Kelley, who was charged in connection to Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol; and retired Pastor Ralph Rebandt.

The GOP primary field shrank in early June after several candidates, including former Detroit police chief James Craig, were booted from the ballot for alleged fraudulent signatures. The shrinking of the field benefited Dixon, as did plenty of support from Michigan’s wealthy DeVos family, which includes former Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

The Democratic Governors Association, as it has done in GOP gubernatorial primaries earlier this year in Maryland, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, is meddling.

Put Michigan First, a Democratic group that is affiliated with the DGA and supporting Whitmer, spent big bucks to run ads targeting her over police funding and claiming her plans would result in the state being "less safe" with "less cops on the street."

The DGA is not the only pro-Democratic group that’s jumping into a GOP primary in Michigan.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ re-election arm, spent six-figures to try and weaken GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan — one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach then-President Trump — by pumping up John Gibbs, the Trump-backed candidate challenging Meijer.

Meijer, an Iraq War veteran who was elected to Congress in 2020, has been targeted by Trump over his impeachment vote. The former president endorsed Gibbs, a former software developer who served in the Trump administration as an acting assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Gibbs is also a supporter of Trump’s repeated unproven claims that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged" due to "massive voter fraud." 

Meijer represents Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, on the western side of the state’s lower peninsula, which the DCCC views as a competitive seat in November’s midterm elections. The latest Fox News Power Rankings rate the district as Lean Republican. House Democrats are hoping to hold onto their razor-thin majority in the chamber in the midterms, and they see Gibbs as a weaker general election candidate than Meijer.

Washington State

Meijer is not the only House Republican on the ballot on Tuesday who voted to impeach Trump.

Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington State are facing multiple primary challengers — including candidates backed by Trump. 

The former president last year backed Army Special Forces veteran Joe Kent as he targeted Buetler in Washington’s third Congressional District, in the southwestern corner of the state. He endorsed former police chief Loren Culp to take Newhouse in the 4th Congressional District, which covers a large swath of the central part of the state.

Washington conducts what is known as a jungle primary, in which the top two vote-getters — regardless of party affiliation — advance to the general election.

Six of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the deadly attack on the Capitol by right wing extremists and other Trump supporters aiming to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory are running for re-election this year. 

One of them — Rep. David Valadao of California — was not targeted by Trump. Valadao in June won a spot in November’s general election, as he was one of the top two finishers in California’s nonpartisan primaries. Another — Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina — lost his bid for renomination in the GOP primary in June to a Trump-endorsed and heavily supported challenger. 

The most well-known of the House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump — Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — is facing multiple primary challengers, including a Trump-backed candidate, in Wyoming’s Aug. 16 primary.


Voters in Kansas will be the first since the blockbuster Supreme Court ruling to weigh in on an abortion ballot measure, as they consider a state constitutional amendment on abortion access. The ballot measure aims to overturn a state Supreme Court decision from three years ago that ruled that the Kansas constitution protected abortion rights. If the measure passes, it would give the state legislature greater control over dictating abortion access.

Since Kansas is the first state to weigh in on the issue since the June high court decision, it is grabbing national attention as a bellwether in the state-level fights over legalized abortion.

What else we’re watching

Arizona’s GOP primary for secretary of state is in the national spotlight, as state Rep. Mark Finchem is one of the front-runners in the four-candidate field. Finchem, who is backed by the former president, is a strong supporter of Trump’s unsubstantiated 2020 election fraud claims. If he captures the Republican nomination and wins November’s general election, Finchem will become the top election official in a state where Biden narrowly edged Trump two years ago and a likely key battleground in the 2024 presidential contest.

It is member versus member in the Democratic primary in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, in the northwestern suburbs of Detroit, where Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens are facing off. Millions of out-of-state money have poured into the race, and two progressive champions — Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have endorsed Levin.

In Missouri’s St. Louis-centric 1st Congressional District, first-term Democratic Rep. Cori Bush, one of the newest members of the "Squad," is facing multiple primary challengers. The leading contender, state Sen. Steve Roberts, has repeatedly criticized Bush for her calls to defund the police.

Democratic impeachment prosecutors use rioters’ words against Trump at trial: ‘We were invited here’

House impeachment managers Thursday sought to directly connect former President Trump to the Jan. 6 violence at the Capitol by playing statements of the rioters who said they were acting on Trump's request.