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Staff Photo By Matt Hamilton / U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony in the Collegedale Commons last week.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, for re-election last week.

What? You missed it?

The announcement, for whatever reason, hasn't been trumpeted widely. It hasn't been mentioned in this newspaper. Local TV stations haven't run with it. We saw in buried in a state conservative news blog.

In it, Trump said: "Congressman Chuck Fleischmann is a terrific advocate for the wonderful people of Tennessee. He works tirelessly to Lower Taxes, Secure our Borders, and Defend our Country. He strongly supports our brave Military, Vets and Law Enforcement, and he will always protect our Second Amendment. Chuck has my Complete and Total Endorsement!"

The endorsement was listed on donaldjtrump.com, but the site now says "the page" can "not be found."

Fleischmann himself tweeted his thanks on his Twitter campaign site — saying "I'm honored to have the endorsement of President Trump for my campaign. I'll always put the people of Tennessee, and America, FIRST" — but his campaign website makes no mention of it.

America's love-hate relationship with the former president may be the reason the endorsement wasn't widely heralded.

Fleischmann has been a big supporter of Trump, as is probably more than half of his 3rd District constituency, so the endorsement is not going to hurt him with them. And what candidate does not want the backing of a former president?

But the six-term congressman would have to be politically blind to see what Democrats are up to across the state and across the country. With President Joe Biden's ratings in the tank, inflation galloping at the highest level in 30 years and his party members fighting among themselves, their campaign strategy for the 2022 midterms is to tie all Republicans to Trump and whatever complicity they allege he had in the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol during the certification of votes from the 2020 presidential election.

They tried it in the Virginia governor's race this fall. Though the former president never campaigned with GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin and though Youngkin did not fully embrace the former president's policies, Democrats and their media pretended the two were tied at the hip. They were certain it would work in a state the former president lost badly in 2020 and in which former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe was considered a shoo-in for election to a second non-consecutive term.

McAuliffe was so sure it was a winning strategy, he said this the day before the election: "Glenn Youngkin's campaign will close today just like it started: with Donald Trump. The one thing Glenn has been upfront with Virginians is about his total allegiance and full embrace of Donald Trump's agenda and dangerous lies."

Youngkin, of course, won the race.

When it was over, left-wing media walked over themselves explaining how Trump was not a factor.

David A. Graham in the Atlantic, for instance, said "other factors proved more decisive than Trump."

"Youngkin," he wrote, "managed a nuanced act of not snubbing Trump voters while also modulating his message in a way that would win over suburban moderates."

Mo Elleithee, a former Democratic Party strategist who is executive director of Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service, had a different thought in Bloomberg.

Trump is no longer a dominant factor motivating supporters or opponents when he isn't on the ballot, he wrote.

Fleischmann also is likely aware of the current frantic national reporting on subpoenas issued to members of the former president's team ahead of another congressional investigation of the events of Jan. 6, on plea deals for those charged with storming the capital on that day and on any other developments Democrats might want to keep in the forefront about Jan. 6.

And the congressman, after all, is one of a number of Republican members of Congress who said he would support efforts by his colleagues to object to the certification of votes for Biden on Jan. 6.

"Many Americans are genuinely concerned and do not have faith in this election," Fleischmann said in a Jan. 4 statement. "It should be our number one priority to ensure that all Americans have faith in the integrity of our elections. Certifying and moving on without an investigation will only go to further fray and dissolve the trust Americans have in the foundation of our country, our elections. I cannot vote to certify the 2020 Electoral College results when real concerns about election integrity from many Americans across this nation, and in East Tennessee, have been mocked and ignored."

The congressman's decision to soft-peddle Trump's endorsement at this time may be much ado about nothing. But if Trump were serving a second term, we imagine it would have been promoted more.

Nevertheless, Fleischmann won a nearly 37-point victory in 2020 and is not likely to have serious primary or general election opposition in 2022. He can file away the endorsement for friendly rallies where it will most help.

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