Midterm primary elections: Pennsylvania GOP Senate race heads for recount

Donald J. Trump stormed into Georgia vowing to rally voters against his enemies and punish Republicans who crossed paths with him in 2020. Instead, Georgia voters punished him for interfering in their State.

Mr Trump picked losers up and down the poll, strikingly missing the mark in the race for a third governor in three weeks. The dismal record, especially for business leaders, illustrates the shortcomings of Mr Trump’s revenge tour.

Since leaving the White House and the structure it provided, the former president has deployed his political power erratically, often making choices on a whim or with little clear path to execution. This approach has repeatedly left him empty-handed and raised new doubts about the stranglehold he has exerted on the Republican Party.

In Georgia, Mr. Trump tried to eliminate a triumvirate of statewide Republican officials who refused to help overturn the 2020 presidential results: Governor Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr. But the three men were all victorious – and delivered a scathing rebuke to Mr Trump in a state that has become one of the nation’s most important presidential battlegrounds.

Henry Barbour, a member of the Republican National Committee in Mississippi, said Mr Trump’s endorsements this year had been “driven by those he dislikes and those who run against them”.

“Sometimes it can work, but I think, as we see in Georgia, it’s very unlikely,” Mr Barbour said.

Mr. Trump’s poor performance in state capitols – his endorsed gubernatorial candidates have now lost as many races as they have won this year – can be partly blamed on the degree of difficulty in his business. Successful campaigns for governors often must be precisely tailored to address nuanced regional and local issues. Bids from the House and Senate — where Mr. Trump’s approval record is still nearly unblemished — can more easily tap domestic political winds.

Unseating incumbent governors in a primary, as Mr. Trump tried to do in Georgia and Idaho, is even more difficult. According to the Eagleton Center on the US Governor at Rutgers University, governors beat major challengers about 95% of the time. Two incumbent governors have not lost primaries in the same year since 1994.

But Mr. Trump has shown that the improbable is virtually impossible when decisions about approvals for top public office are based on lies, revenge and personal pride. His refusal to take a more cautious approach and protect his political capital ahead of a likely 2024 presidential campaign has resulted in unforced errors that could play out for months.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

In Georgia, for example, Republicans have worried about unnecessary political damage Mr. Trump has inflicted on Mr. Kemp, who faces a rematch in November with Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee who lost her 2018 contest by 54,700 votes, or less than one and a half percentage points. The political oversight of the governor’s office exerts significant influence over election laws and regulations ahead of the 2024 vote.

“I don’t believe Kemp can do it,” Mr. Trump said during a tele-rally on Monday about the governor’s chances of defeating Ms. Abrams. “There are too many people in the Republican Party who will refuse to vote. They just won’t come out.

Mr. Trump’s loss in Georgia also meant a major victory for the Republican Governors Association, which circled the wagons around the incumbents and resisted the former president’s attacks on their members.

The group has spent $5 million on Mr. Kemp’s run and dispatched a cavalry of current and former governors to campaign for him, including two potential opponents of Mr. Trump in 2024: New Jersey’s Chris Christie and the former Vice President Mike Pence, who like Mr Kemp refused to help Mr Trump cancel the 2020 election.

Whether the Georgia results will provide a foothold to challenge Mr. Trump’s supremacy in the party is unclear, but the signs that he has lost political altitude have been unmistakable. throughout the 2022 primary season.

Aware that potential 2024 presidential rivals are watching overtures against him, Mr Trump has been toying for months with the announcement of his candidacy ahead of this year’s midterm elections, according to people who spoke to him.

Earlier discussions of similar measures came to nothing, including a “Draft Trump” movement launched by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shortly after Mr Trump’s departure and an idea to announce a committee exploratory as recently as March.

But Mr. Trump recently spoke to aides about declaring his candidacy this summer as a way to weed out other candidates. Other advisers said he saw the announcement as a way to tie himself into the success Republicans expect in the midterm elections in November.

Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

Mr. Trump enjoyed a handful of successes Tuesday night, including with his former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is almost certain to become the next governor of Arkansas after winning the Republican primary. And Herschel Walker, the former soccer star Mr. Trump urged to run for the Senate, easily won his primary in Georgia. Yet they were exceptions and faced little opposition.

In a statement, Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, shrugged off Tuesday night’s losing streak, calling it “another huge night of victories for his endorsed candidates.”

In an interview last week, Mr. Trump defended his endorsement record, saying he backed candidates he believed in, not just those he expected to win. He pointed to JD Vance’s victory in the Ohio Senate primary, Mr. Trump’s biggest victory of the primary season to date.

There Mr Trump acted after late polls suggested his endorsement could be the difference for Mr Vance, who was lagging in the polls at the time – and his announcement propelled Mr Vance to a decisive victory.

But this deliberate decision-making was a departure from the more scattered approach seen in Mr. Trump’s endorsements for governor.

In Nebraska, where Mr. Trump’s endorsed candidate, agricultural leader Charles Herbster, was defeated on May 10, Mr. Trump privately blamed Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, complaining of pushing him to support Mr. Herbster, and to go so far as to suggest to certain people that Mrs. Pirro and Mr. Herbster had dated.

A person close to Ms Pirro said she and Mr Herbster never dated. And other Trump allies disputed that Ms. Pirro had outsized influence on her decision to back Mr. Herbster, a longtime Trump donor whose advisers included former Trump campaign managers Kellyanne Conway and Corey Lewandowski.

Credit…Natalie Behring for The New York Times

In Idaho, Mr. Trump told his advisers that he had been forced to back a long-term offer from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin because incumbent Gov. Brad Little had praised Joseph R. Biden Jr. for winning the presidency.

But there was no evidence that Mr. Little had done anything like that. In fact, Mr Little, who beat Ms McGeachin by 20 points on May 17, filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of a lawsuit seeking to overturn presidential election results in four swing states. — even after the state’s Republican election. the Attorney General declined to support the baseless allegations.

In the interview, Mr Trump said Ms McGeachin had been a “tremendous supporter”.

“I did it without even thinking she was going to win,” he said. “I felt like I owed him that. You know, it’s hard to beat a sitting governor.

In Georgia, the former president made ousting Mr. Kemp a top priority after the governor refused to help overturn the 2020 election results. Yet Mr. Trump was hardly consistent: the Kemp’s challenger whom he hand-picked, former Sen. David Perdue, had initially been reluctant to question Mr. Biden’s victory in Georgia and only became more vocal about it after entering in the race for governor.

The president’s former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, warned Mr Trump against endorsing Mr Perdue and instead urged him to endorse Vernon Jones, according to people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Bannon argued that Mr. Jones, a former Georgia lawmaker who had been repeatedly accused of abusive behavior towards women, was nonetheless the strongest candidate because Trump supporters viewed Mr. Perdue’s stance on electoral fraud as inauthentic.

The former president refused to acknowledge recent polls which showed Mr Perdue heading for a crushing loss. Even though some polls showed Mr. Kemp ahead by about 30 points, Mr. Trump told Mr. Perdue in a phone call last week that he believed victory was imminent.

“We’ve never lost a race,” Trump falsely claimed of his endorsements record, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

As president, Mr. Trump dutifully tracked his endorsement record and played each win as a barometer of his own popularity. White House political aides worked with Republican leaders in Congress and with state officials to compile endorsement briefings to guide Mr. Trump’s decisions and provide safeguards to prevent him from act on some of his impulses.

Since leaving the White House, however, Mr. Trump has maintained a much more limited political infrastructure and his approval process has been less methodical. He has resisted efforts to impose order on his decision-making and seeks advice from an array of advisers and informal aides, many of whom are paid by candidates hoping to win the former president’s backing.

The driving impetus in Mr. Trump’s endorsements appears to be his determination to stay relevant.

At a meeting earlier this year on a hotly contested primary, some advisers suggested Mr Trump’s best option might be to stay out of the race. He clarified that was not an option.

“If I do that,” Mr. Trump said, “they’ll just say they won it without me.”


May 25, 2022

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Mr Kemp’s 2018 victory over Ms Abrams. He won by less than one and a half percent, no less than half a percent.

Comments are closed.