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Republicans who missed out on Donald Trumps coveted endorsements are grasping for ways to tie themselves to the former president and his political movement, betting his  message will prove more powerful in contentious primary races than the man himself. 

The strategy is playing out in GOP primaries across the country, including in South Carolina, where Trump last week endorsed Republican Katie Arringtons challenge to Rep. Nancy MaceNancy MaceMace touts early support of Trump after he endorses primary challenger Trump endorses Rep. Nancy Mace’s primary challengerGOP challenger says Mace ‘sold out President Trump’MORE (R-S.C.), a once-loyal ally who drew the former presidents ire by criticizing him in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.  

Mace, a first-term congresswoman who worked on Trumps 2016 campaign, responded by filming a video of herself praising the former president and touting her support for him outside of Trump Tower in New York City. 

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I remember in 2015 when President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley Cyberattack hits Ukrainian defenseOn The Money GOP senators block Biden’s Fed picks Florida county clerk’s typo directed ticketed drivers to site selling Trump merchandiseMORE announced his run. I was one of his earliest supporters, she said. I actually worked for the campaign in 2016. I worked in seven different states across the country to help get him elected. I supported him again in 2020 because of policies I believe in. 

Im standing in front of Trump Tower with a message this morning#SC01#LowcountryFirstpic.twitter.com/CpmMYA63qt

Nancy Mace (@NancyMace) February 10, 2022

Maces video underscores the conundrum that several Republicans are facing: how to use Trumps message to appeal to Trumps voters, without the backing of Trump himself.

The titular head of Trumpism is Trump himself and yet, when hes endorsing in these races, youre still seeing traction by candidates who have found their own embrace of Trumpism, but dont have the titular head behind them, one GOP strategist said. And a lot of them have a good fighting chance here. 

Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempRaffensperger calls for extra security at Georgia polling sitesNo ‘mass exodus,’ but GOP sees Trump grip looseningTrump pushes back at those saying he’s lost grip on GOPMORE (R) is employing a similar strategy in his primary fight against former Sen. David PerdueDavid PerdueNo ‘mass exodus,’ but GOP sees Trump grip looseningTrump pushes back at those saying he’s lost grip on GOPSunday shows preview: White House says Russia could invade ‘any day’; RNC censure resolution receives backlashMORE (R-Ga.), who jumped into the race late last year at Trumps urging and was promptly endorsed by the former president. 

Just days after Perdue unveiled his first campaign ad a 30-second spot featuring Trump himself touting his support for the former senator Kemps leadership committee responded with an ad spot of its own hammering Perdue for outsourcing jobs throughout his lengthy business career despite Trumps campaign promise to bring back jobs sent overseas.  

President Trump worked hard putting America first, a narrator says in the ad. But David Perdue sent American jobs to China over and over again, by the thousands, and made millions.  

That line of attack has become familiar in other Republican primaries that Trump has weighed in on.  

In the Alabama GOP Senate primary, Republican Katie Britt accused her Trump-endorsed primary opponent Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksTrump pushes back at those saying he’s lost grip on GOPThese people have been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 panelGOP women’s group endorses Herrera Beutler in primary raceMORE (R-Ala.) of turning on the former president when he described two of Trumps judicial appointees in Alabama as liberal, activist judges after a three-judge panel rejected a new congressional map passed by the state legislature. 

Likewise, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Tuesday attacked Rep. Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddMidterm primaries might be critical to balance of the SenateTrump under fire over Tennessee primary nodMark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race MORE (R-N.C.), his Trump-backed rival for the states Republican Senate nomination, for voting against legislation supported by the former president, including a 2018 immigration and border security bill that included funding for Trumps long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Im more conservative than my two opponents, McCrory said on the conservative podcast Locked In. I mean, I cannot think of anything that Ted Budd has accomplished in six years. In fact, he voted against the wall. He voted against the immigration bill that Donald Trump wanted. 

More than a year after losing the 2020 presidential election and leaving the White House, Trump remains the single most sought-after endorsement for Republican candidates.   

But while hes managed to crown frontrunners in some primary contests, other preferred candidates of his are still facing tough nominating fights, as Republicans who missed out on his endorsement decide to take their chances against their Trump-backed rivals. While a few, like Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe real reason Jim Jordan is ranting against Jan. 6 committee staffNo ‘mass exodus,’ but GOP sees Trump grip looseningEx-RNC chair pens open letter to McDaniel: You will regret censure of Cheney, KinzingerMORE (R-Wyo.), a favorite target of Trump, are doing so by putting significant distance between themselves and the former president, more seem to be trying to prove to GOP voters theyve loyally aligned themselves with Trump and his policies. 

Hes wading into primaries and people just arent dropping out. Theyre not running away from him, Keith Naughton, a veteran Republican strategist, said. No one is running away from him on these primaries, and I think its showing hes still important but theres an erosion. 

Theres also some evidence that Trumps endorsement  at least in some races may not be as powerful as he and his allies had hoped. A Quinnipiac University poll out of Georgia late last month found that only 44 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who has Trumps support, while 50 percent said his endorsement does not make a difference to them. 

That same poll showed Kemp leading Perdue 43 percent to 36 percent.  

And while Democratic opponents could seize on their appeals to Trump in the primary contests as Annie Andrews, the Democrat challenging Mace, did almost immediately not having Trumps outright endorsement could prove to be an asset for some GOP candidates heading into the general election.  

A recent NBC News poll found that only 21 percent of voters said that they would be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate backed by Trump, while 42 percent said his endorsement would make them less likely to vote for a candidate. Thirty-six percent said it wouldnt have an impact on how they cast their ballots. 

Still, Trump is particularly eager for his preferred candidates to emerge from their respective primaries, seeing their victories as a reflection of his own political strength, especially as he eyes a potential White House bid in 2024. In a statement this week, the former president insisted upon the strength of his endorsement, saying that it is much stronger today than it was even prior to the 2020 election. 

Trump is also set to step up his midterm campaigning in the coming weeks and months, including holding a rally in South Carolina, where hes endorsed primary challenges against two Republican incumbents, Mace and Rep. Tom RiceHugh (Tom) Thompson RiceTrump endorses GOP challenger to South Carolina Rep. Tom RiceThe fates of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach TrumpGOP’s Rice says he regrets Jan. 6 vote against Biden’s electionMORE (R-S.C.).  

Whether such rallies will actually give his preferred candidates the boost that they need, however, is an open question. 

When hes doing these rallies, hes not doing them for one candidate. The candidates are just the sideshow, one Republican operative said. These rallies are more of a Trump show than they are an endorsement show.