(NewsNation) — The closer we get to Election Day, the more it seems Republicans in tight races are distancing themselves from former President Donald Trump. Actions speak louder than words, and it’s clear that the former president is now seen as a liability in many swing races. That goes not just for moderates, but even for some staunch conservatives who have previously been strong Trump allies.
Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee is currently in a close battle with independent candidate Evan McMullin. It’s sort of remarkable that this is close in deep red Utah, the first competitive Senate race they’ve had since ‘76, when Orrin Hatch defeated Democrat incumbent Frank Moss.
At a debate Monday night in Orem, Utah, the Republican incumbent tried his best to distance himself and the former president.
“I voted less with President Trump than anyone else, other than Rand Paul and Susan Collins. In fact, I called out President Trump about spending bills, specifically including one time when he called me on my airplane coming back to Utah and I told him it was a huge mistake,” Lee said. “I called him out in public and in private, on a train, in the rain … in a box, every time I got the chance.”
Apparently, Lee now believes it’s bad politics to be closely aligned with Donald Trump, which is kind of stunning. And he’s not the only one. Republican Colorado Senate candidate Joe O’Dea has escalated his attacks on the former president over January 6, to the point where he’s vowing to try to prevent the former president from winning back the White House in 2024.
“I believe that the January 6 was a black eye on the country. I have been very vocal that I thought he should have done more to keep the violence from heading towards the Capitol. If Trump should run again, I’m going to actively campaign against Donald Trump,” O’Dea said.
Somehow, that strategy appears to be working for O’Dea. National Republican groups have begun pouring millions into the O’Dea campaign with party strategists thinking he could pull an upset over Democrat incumbent Michael Bennett.
And even those who most aggressively courted Trump’s endorsement in the primary have begun distancing themselves from him in the general election campaigns. After some carefully worded takes about the 2020 election, designed not to run afoul of the foreign president, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania has come down strongly against Trump on an issue critical to the former president.
When asked if he would have objected to the certification of the 2020 election and Joe Biden’s win, Oz replied: “I would not have objected to it. By the time the delegates and those reports were sent to the U.S. Senate, our job was to approve it, which is what I would have done.”
Even previously staunch Trump ally Herschel Walker in Georgia is publicly disputing the former president’s repeated claim that he actually won the 2020 election.
“President Biden won, and Senator Warnock won. That’s the reason I decided to run,” Walker said.
Many Republican candidates across the country are seeing that if they actually want to win office, they need to move more to the middle.
Democrats are doing it, too, by the way, with more liberal candidates such as Wisconsin’s Mandela Barnes and Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro trying to position themselves as moderates.
This is all a reminder that what we call the marginalized moderate majority remains the most powerful political force in America. And for all the noise from and about the extremes, when push comes to shove, the majority of Americans want candidates somewhere much closer to the middle.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.