The primaries this week underscored the limitations of Trump’s endorsement.
Georgia’s primary date was one former President Donald Trump circled on his calendar early in the primary season, as a spot to seek revenge against Republicans who didn’t do enough to support his election lies.
That primary, as well as ones in Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, and a runoff in Texas, happened Tuesday. Here are two losers and one winner from them. One key race — between incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar and attorney Jessica Cisneros in Texas’s 28th District Democratic primary, has yet to be called.
Loser: Donald Trump
Yes, Trump’s overall record remains healthy — the vast majority of candidates he endorsed won again on Tuesday. And no, there wasn’t much lingering doubt going into Tuesday night that Trump’s favored candidate in the Georgia GOP governor’s primary would lose — badly. But there are several reasons the 50-point win by incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump targeted after he certified the results of the 2020 election, was enough of a black eye to put Trump in Vox’s loser column for the first time this year.
Trump recruited former senator David Perdue to run in the race, reportedly calling him several times in fall 2021 to convince him to run against Kemp. Trump often defies the rules of politics, and maybe that’s why he thought it wise to put his weight behind Perdue, a former Kemp ally fresh off a statewide loss, to try to oust a popular incumbent. Trump spent significant time and energy on rallies and public statements, but polls never showed Perdue gaining traction or posing a real threat to Kemp. By the end of the campaign, Trump appeared to have given up.
Trump’s losing gamble on Perdue was so obvious it invited Republicans who typically fall in line with him to publicly rebel. Former Vice President Mike Pence, for the first time overtly apparently trying to distance himself from Trump as he prepares for a possible presidential run, endorsed Kemp — though he (and other national Republicans) did so after Kemp looked likely to win.
Trump’s losses didn’t stop there. Rep. Jody Hice, the Trump-backed challenger in the state’s Republican primary for secretary of state, was on track to win less than a third of the vote in his bid to take down incumbent Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump branded as an enemy after Raffensperger refused to intervene in the certification of the state’s 2020 results. The former president’s pick for attorney general, John Gordon, was on pace to lose by nearly 50 points in his bid to oust the incumbent attorney general, Chris Carr, who acknowledged Biden’s 2020 victory. In Alabama, the race for the Republican Senate nomination appeared to be headed to a runoff between two candidates who were distinctly not Trump favorites. Katie Britt, an establishment pick and former aide to the retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, and the far-right Rep. Mo Brooks, who had his Trump endorsement angrily yanked away over a dispute this spring, will move on to the runoff.
Trump’s coattails were successful in some spots: In Georgia’s Republican Senate primary, the football star Herschel Walker, whom Trump also persuaded to run, cruised to victory in a race with no serious opponents. A similar picture unfolded in Arkansas, where Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former Trump White House press secretary, cleared the Republican field for governor early. But their limits are becoming clearer each week.
In general, we’ve seen Trump’s endorsement make more of a difference in races where there is a crowded slate of little-known candidates, as was the case in Ohio with J.D. Vance. But in a two-way race where one candidate already has wide name recognition and is popular, it has made little difference. —Christian Paz and Nicole Narea
Loser: The Big Lie
In another blow to Trump, we got some proof Tuesday that failure to adhere to his “big lie” about election fraud in 2020 isn’t really a dealbreaker for a swath of GOP voters.
Much like Kemp and Raffensperger in Georgia, Arkansas Sen. John Boozman did not question the 2020 election results and, as a result, incurred primary challengers who seemed to feel he wasn’t conservative enough. Unlike Kemp and Raffensperger, however, Boozman had already gotten Trump’s endorsement as well as that of other conservative leaders in his party. Boozman won handily.
Although the Big Lie has been normalized by many Republicans, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who won his primary on Tuesday, Georgia’s and Arkansas’s races suggest there’s a split in the party, and it’s not the deciding factor for many GOP voters. Notably, however, it appears to have pushed many Republicans — even those who don’t subscribe to it — to raise questions about election fraud when there’s no evidence for these claims. —Li Zhou
Winner: One of Congress’s most credible gun control advocates
Incumbent Rep. Lucy McBath’s victory Tuesday came just hours after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas put the issue she is perhaps best known for supporting — gun control — back at the forefront of national news.
“I came to give one speech, but I am now forced to make another because, just hours ago, we paid for the weapons of war on our streets again with the blood of little children sitting in our schools,” she said after her win. “It was a phone call that every parent fears.”
McBath can relate to those parents: Her son was shot and killed in 2012, and her advocacy for gun restrictions following his death has propelled her political career.
McBath was among the lawmakers this cycle who found themselves in a tough Democrat-on-Democrat contest brought on by redistricting. Since Republicans made a battleground district in the Atlanta suburbs far redder when they redid the state map, McBath and Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux wound up against one another in a newly drawn district. —LZ