Wednesday, June 15, 2022

GOP Primaries Test Limits of Trump's Influence (VIDEO)

At the New York Times, "G.O.P. primary victories in Nevada set the stage for Trump-centered battles in the fall":

Republican voters in Nevada on Tuesday elevated conservative candidates who have ardently embraced Donald J. Trump’s false claims of election fraud, turning a key swing state into a contest this fall between embattled Democrats and Republicans who insist President Biden stole the 2020 election.

The victories in the Nevada primaries for Mr. Trump capped a series of elections on Tuesday that saw one South Carolina Republican lawmaker who had crossed Mr. Trump go down in defeat, another survive her Trump-backed challenge and a Hispanic Republican grab a South Texas House seat vacated by a Democrat.

Those results gave mixed signals about Mr. Trump’s continuing grip on the party even as the scrutiny of his actions following his 2020 defeat intensifies. At the same time, the elections on Tuesday suggested that Republicans remain on course for strong gains in November’s midterms.

By flipping the Rio Grande Valley seat of former Representative Filemon Vela in Texas, Mayra Flores became the first Republican to represent the majority-Hispanic district in the seat’s 10-year history, and she became the first Republican Latina the state has ever sent to Congress.

In the sheer number of tossup contests, few states will rival Nevada this fall. Republicans see chances to unseat a host of Democrats, including Gov. Steve Sisolak; Lt. Gov. Lisa Cano Burkhead; three Democratic members of the House; and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.

Among the Republicans who won their primaries Tuesday were Adam Laxalt, a Senate candidate and former Nevada attorney general who led Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, and Jim Marchant, a secretary of state candidate who has pressed conspiracy theories about voting machines and hopes to oversee the state’s 2024 election.

Election night on Tuesday started with the defeat in South Carolina of Representative Tom Rice by a Republican primary challenger endorsed by Mr. Trump, even as another South Carolina Republican, Representative Nancy Mace, survived.

Both Mr. Rice and Ms. Mace had crossed the former president as he struggled to maintain power after the Jan. 6 attack, which is now under the spotlight of congressional hearings. Mr. Rice, a staunch conservative in a conservative coastal district, was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the riot. Ms. Mace, in her first speech as a newly elected freshman, said Mr. Trump bore responsibility for the deadly mayhem, though she did not vote to impeach him.

In turn, Mr. Trump backed Katie Arrington, a former state lawmaker, to take on Ms. Mace and State Representative Russell Fry to challenge Mr. Rice. Mr. Trump, who turned 76 on Tuesday, called on South Carolina voters to deliver him “a beautiful, beautiful birthday present” — twin defeats of both Ms. Mace and Mr. Rice.

The South Carolina contests had their own dynamics — Mr. Rice was defiant and contemptuous of Mr. Trump to the end, while Ms. Mace tried hard to regain the good graces of Trump administration officials if not Mr. Trump himself. The outcomes of both races could hold deep meaning to the party as it considers whether to renominate the former president for another White House run.

“This took a little bit of time, but we are finally here,” Ms. Mace told those gathered for a victory party in Charleston, as she thanked Ms. Arrington for “stepping into the arena.” She added, “this is going to make our campaign even stronger in November.”

The elections on Tuesday represented something of a midpoint in a Republican primary season that has delivered decidedly mixed signals to party leadership. Mr. Trump has claimed some significant wins, propelling his chosen Senate candidates to primary victories, such as J.D. Vance in Ohio and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. However, his endorsed candidates have lost primary showdowns for governor in Georgia and Nebraska as well as a key secretary of state race in Georgia.

Still to come are contests that rank high on his vengeance list, such as Representative Liz Cheney’s primary in Wyoming on Aug. 16...