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House GOP campaign chief advises battleground Republicans: ’embrace’ Trump

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia — The head of the House GOP campaign arm has some advice for Republicans who aren’t sure how to handle Donald Trump in battleground districts: “embrace him.”

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) isn’t personally pressuring anyone to do so, saying in an interview with POLITICO that candidates need to decide how to handle their own individual races. But generally, he said boosting the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee is a winning strategy across districts.

“I was one of the first people that endorsed Trump this cycle, and I’m proud to run with him. I think he’s a net positive everywhere for us. So if somebody asked, I tell them, ‘embrace him, he’s our nominee.’ I mean, he’s wildly popular everywhere right now. He’s winning every battleground state,” Hudson said.

Top GOP leaders, including the House Republican Congressional Committee chair, have been bullish about their chances of retaking the majority at the annual GOP policy conference this week at Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. They’ve cited President Joe Biden’s low polling numbers in battleground states and his struggles to address the influx of migrants at the border.

Hudson declined to say how many seats he predicts Republicans will win, calling such a question a “gotcha” if they fall short — likely remembering the embarrassment former Speaker Kevin McCarthy suffered after estimating the House GOP would win more than 60 seats in 2022, a “red wave” forecast that never materialized.

Both Hudson and Speaker Mike Johnson have so far avoided making any such grand claims, apart from projecting they will retain control of the chamber. Instead, Hudson merely said he thought they’d be fighting Democrats for “somewhere between 25 and 30 seats.” Johnson has said he believes as many as 37 races are in play this cycle.

To help win those seats, Hudson said the party needs to handle the abortion issue differently. In presentations to members and candidates, Hudson has recommended they clearly state their position on the matter, arguing that it was a “mistake” for the party to stay silent on it last cycle and allow Democrats to define their abortion stances.

“Last cycle, Democrats spent over $500 million telling voters what their voting position was. And Republicans kept quiet on it, and looking back on that — that was a big mistake,” Hudson said.

After doing some polling and hosting focus groups in battleground districts, he said Republican leaders concluded: “We don’t have a policy problem, we have a branding problem.”

“We have a wide variety of positions on this that range from states rights to some reasonable limits on abortion. So, we’re kind of across the spectrum, just like the American people are,” Hudson said.