Jeff Roe, who managed Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016, has a message for Republican congressional candidates: Don’t run from Trump this year. Instead they should “[f]ix bayonets and charge the hill.” What exactly does this mean? It’s not that they should “support the president’s tweet storms.” But they should not engage in “wringing their hands about his tweets” either. What they should do is separate Trump’s “persona” from his policies and champion the latter. Then again, Roe thinks that Trump’s persona is actually marvelous and has contributed to his policy successes. So maybe they’re not really separable?
The vote-maximizing strategy for handling Trump will almost certainly vary by state and congressional district, as Roe concedes in passing. Most candidates are going to have their own senses of what they should do. In places where there are serious cross-pressures — in districts with large numbers of Trump enthusiasts and of anti-Trump voters who sometimes back Republicans — they will probably be drawn to defending a lot of Republican policies without necessarily linking them to Trump.
Does that strategy count as “creating distance from Mr. Trump,” which Roe thinks is almost always a bad idea, or separating the persona and the policies, which Roe recommends and then argues against? I have no idea. Roe may have fixed his bayonet, but damned if I can tell what direction he’s charging.