Primaries expose Trump’s limited influence
If you are not up to speed on the results of some rather important Republican primaries, you are not alone. The producers at CNN and MSNBC were so engrossed in hyping the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson before the Select Committee (which will be the subject of an upcoming commentary) that they provided no time for election day news in several key states.
If we look at the elections around the country in terms of President Trump’s influence, I would say it was a wash to a slight disappointment for the former President. In the very important Senate race in Colorado, the establishment candidate, Joe O’Dea, defeated the Trump candidate, Ron Hanks, by a convincing 54.5 to 45.5 percent margin. Hanks had been one of the attendees of the January 6, 2021, gathering on Capitol Hill. This was almost as bad for Trump as losing the Georgia Republican primary to incumbent Governor Brian Kemp.
Democrats had not only been hoping to have Hanks as the opponent to incumbent Democrat Senator Michael Bennett, they also had a lot invested in the race … literally. With Bennett having no competition in their primary, Democrats poured millions of dollars (yes, millions) into Hank’s campaign and independent advertising in his support. Bennett should lose his seat on that issue alone.
Democrats also poured money into the U.S. Senate race to defeat Republican candidate Heidi Ganahl in favor of Greg Lopez – perceived to be the more Trumpian candidate. That money went down the drain when Ganahl defeated Lopez by a 54 to 46 margin.
In the Secretary of State race in Colorado, conservative Republican Pam Anderson bested two challengers, including Trump election activist Tina Peters – who is under indictment for tampering with election machines.
In Mississippi, incumbent Republican Congressman Michael Guest had been forced into a run-off election in which he faced at least one Trump candidate. In the final round, Guest won the GOP nomination by an impressive 67 to 33 percent margin over Michael Cassidy, who was more aligned to the Trump faction of the GOP.
One of the litmus tests for Trump was how members of Congress voted on the creation of a commission to investigate the Capitol Hill riot. Obviously, the voters were not concerned. Three other members who voted in favor of establishing a commission won their primary races. They were Representatives Blake Moore (Utah), John Curtis (Utah) and Stephanie Bice (Oklahoma).
Democrats were not only pouring money into Colorado GOP primaries. It was part of a national strategy in which Democrat groups poured tens of millions of dollars to produce Republican candidates they believed to be more easily beatable. The Democrat effort was claimed to be more successful in Illinois – where the Democrat Governors’ Association and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker poured tens of millions of dollars to defeat establishment candidate Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin in favor of conservative candidate Darren Bailey.
The Democrats spent their money painting Darren Bailey (somewhat falsely) as a card-carrying MAGA Trump candidate – but he was eventually endorsed by Trump. But that was only after Bailey was polling well ahead of Richard Irvin. Baily easily won the race with an impressive 58 percent of the vote over three opponents – with Irvin taking third place with 15 percent of the vote.
The Illinois primary had a personal angle for me. My ex-brother-in-law David Shestokas was running in the three-way Attorney General. He ran as a supporter of Trump – and had been part of the legal team challenging election results in specific states. The establishment candidate was Steve Kim. The third candidate was Thomas DeVore – who came to fame by defeating Governor Pritzker’s mask mandate order.
I found this a particularly informative race in terms of Trump’s popularity when a clearly Trump candidate (Shestokas) is facing an establishment candidate (Kim) and a non-Trump conservative (DeVore). DeVore got 44 percent of the vote, with Kim at 35 and Shestokas at 21 percent.
Some Trump candidates were successful, but his clear victories came with Republican incumbents in very safe districts. The primary example is Colorado’s incumbent Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who won a landslide 65 percent over challenger Don Coram. She would have won with or without Trump’s endorsement.
The two major left-wing chronicles saw the outcome of Tuesday’s GOP primaries very differently. The New York Times’ headline read: “Trump’s Primary Losses Puncture His Invincibility.” The Washington Post headline read: “More than 100 GOP primary winners back Trump’s false fraud claims.”
I think they are both wrong. I do not think Trump ever had the invincible control over the GOP as the left and Trump like to claim. And 100 winners out of tens of thousands of candidates – and those very high-end losses – give Trump a mixed review at best.
The American people are not fools or cultists. They are intelligent and thoughtful people who weigh each candidate individually – and with consideration of a lot of local and national issues. That is the take-away from this latest round of GOP primaries.
So, there ‘tis.