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Sam Brown has yet to secure Trump’s endorsement

NRSC’s Trump strategy put to the test in battleground Nevada

Former President Donald Trump is staying on the sidelines in a critical Senate primary that’s pitting the Senate GOP campaign arm against Trump loyalists.

The Nevada primary is just a month away. And GOP frontrunner Sam Brown has yet to secure Trump’s endorsement despite a recent trip to Mar-a-Lago and separate efforts by top Republicans to convince the former president to back him.

Brown, who has the support of the NRSC and most Republican senators, is going up against Jeff Gunter, a self-funder who served as Trump’s ambassador to Iceland. Trump’s hesitancy to endorse Brown is raising fears that Gunter could be a spoiler in a state Republicans believe is in play. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen (Nev.) is seeking a second term in November in a state that President Joe Biden won by just two points.

A shift: The dynamic is prompting Brown and his allies to cozy up to Trump and bash Gunter. Just this week, a pro-Brown super PAC started airing an ad hitting Gunter as a California Democrat who’s not sufficiently pro-Trump. And Brown himself has upped his appearances on right-wing media.

Gunter, for his part, argues in his ads that Brown is “owned by McConnell” and “owned by the swamp.” Gunter’s supporters include Trump loyalists like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

Gunter’s big-money ad buys, combined with Trump’s formal neutrality in the race, are forcing Brown to tack to the right and devote more attention to a primary he once shrugged off.

When we interviewed Brown in Nevada last summer, he refused to say whether he was comfortable sharing a ticket with Trump and dismissed the idea of a competitive primary.

Still, Brown is polling well ahead of his GOP challengers, which include Gunter and far-right former state Rep. Jim Marchant.

Are Senate Republicans worried? NRSC Chair Steve Daines told us that Trump “thinks the world of Sam Brown,” but he was noncommittal on whether a formal endorsement is coming.

“We’ll see. It’s President Trump’s decision on that,” Daines said. “Sam Brown is the Senate candidate that President Trump will want to have beside him when he’s doing rallies in Nevada as this election closes out.”

Thanks in part to Daines’ urging, Trump has shown a willingness to be a team player in Senate elections this cycle. Trump has notably endorsed former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) in the Wolverine State, despite Rogers previously teasing a run against Trump.

Daines, along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has employed an aggressive endorsement strategy aimed at getting Trump on board with establishment-blessed candidates. The tactic has paid dividends, helping avoid the messy GOP primaries that dominated the disastrous 2022 cycle.

But Nevada is one area where the pressure campaign hasn’t broken through. McConnell described Brown in a recent interview with Politico as “a quality candidate in Nevada who’s got a tough primary apparently.”

Democrats are seizing on Brown’s posture in the GOP contest to paint him as too extreme in a general election matchup against Rosen. Still, Republicans feel confident about Nevada in part because the GOP nominee in 2022, Adam Laxalt, came within 9,000 votes of defeating Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

Don’t miss: All our 2024 election coverage here.

— Andrew Desiderio and Max Cohen

Presented by AARP

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We’ve made it our business to know what matters to people 50 and over—like we know that protecting Social Security and supporting family caregivers are among their top priorities. Learn more from our polling in Pennsylvania.

Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.