Republicans will hold primaries in those states in 2022 after Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Richard Shelby of Alabama announced they will not seek reelection.
“I think he should just let it play out, if I were him,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday, referring to Trump. “I just think you want to just make sure some of your best candidates emerge.”
Graham was asked if Trump could hurt Republicans’ chances of retaking the Senate if he threw in his endorsements. “I mean, I think it’d be in his interest to see how, you know, who can give a punch, take a punch and that kind of stuff,” the senator said.
Graham played golf with the former president over the weekend. He was asked what advice he gave to Trump.
“I said you’re the leader of the party, whether we win or not, and 2022 matters to you. If we come back, you’ll get your fair share of credit,” Graham said.
He pointed to Herschel Walker, who Trump called on to run in Georgia. Walker, a former NFL player, has not announced a run for the Georgia seat in 2022, but has publicly supported Trump.
“Like Herschel Walker, I think Herschel Walker would be a good candidate. But I don’t know, I’ve never tested Herschel, I don’t know,” Graham said. “So the bottom line is, you are the team captain. Make sure your best team is on the field. May not be your favorite player but it’s the one that can play the position best. So it’s a constant reinforcing the message that success in 2022 in the House, in the Senate, helps you, helps us all.”
Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama showcased his loyalty to Trump as he launched his Senate campaign Monday. At the same time, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced his candidacy for the Senate in the state during an appearance on Fox News’ “Special Report.”
Greitens told Bret Baier that the people of Missouri “need somebody who is going to go – as I will, as I am committed to do – to defending President Trump’s ‘American First’ policies and also to protecting the people of Missouri from Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s radical leftist agenda.”
Greitens resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign irregularities.
Asked if he told Trump to “lay off” criticism of Republicans like Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Graham said he “didn’t go there.” He pointed out that McConnell is not up for reelection. “I’ll let him figure out what to do with Lisa. I like Lisa. I think she does a good job, but there’s a history there that’s not going to be changed. So I’m focusing on things that can be changed,” Graham said.
Trump has endorsed several lawmakers who are seeking reelection, and some candidates who are taking up a primary race against Republican incumbents. On Monday he endorsed Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., in the primary against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, who drew Trump’s ire after certifying election results in favor of President Biden. Last month, Trump endorsed his former aide, Max Miller, who will primary Ohio GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted for Trump’s impeachment after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Fox News’ Jason Donner contributed to this report.