Trump loyalty tests, surging number of women winners defines Tuesday's election results

Trump loyalty tests, surging number of women winners defines Tuesday's election results
© Greg Nash

Tuesday’s primaries in Virginia, South Carolina, Nevada and Maine, as well as a special election in Wisconsin, have offered some hints as to what might be expected in November's pivotal midterm elections. 

Not all of the races have been called as of early Wednesday morning — Maine’s experiment with ranked-choice balloting will delay the results there for a few days, while some key South Carolina primaries are heading to a runoff.

With that in mind, here’s what you need to know from Tuesday’s election results.

MAGA loyalty is driving GOP primary voters

Primaries in Virginia and South Carolina made clear that support for Trump is a key litmus test among GOP primary voters.

Corey Stewart, the controversial local Virginia politician who fell just short in the state’s 2017 GOP gubernatorial primary, edged out a tight victory in the state’s Senate primary, where he wore the Trump mantle proudly.

He and his allies worked hard to frame state Delegate Nick Freitas as “Never Trump Nick,” mounting a sharp-edged campaign reflective of his 2017 primary bid that centered on protecting Confederate monuments.

In South Carolina, Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordTrump faces new hit on deficit Sanford calls for 'overdue conversation' on debt as he mulls Trump challenge Trump primary challenger Bill Weld responds to rally chants: 'We are in a fight for the soul of the GOP' MORE (R-S.C.), a regular Trump critic, has been booted out of office likely as a direct result of his willingness to criticize Trump. State Rep. Katie Arrington, the GOP nominee, ran against Sanford’s criticisms of Trump — he argued last year that Trump “has fanned the flames of intolerance” and is one of the leading GOP voices in calling for Trump to release his taxes. That strategy won her the backing of Trump, who endorsed her in a tweet hours before the polls closed.

But it wasn't all roses for Trump supporters, as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) will face a runoff against a first-time candidate who wants to clean up Columbia.

McMaster, one of the first public officials who backed Trump during the 2016 GOP primary, became governor when Trump appointed his predecessor Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyAmerican women can have it all State denies report ex-spokeswoman received Fox salary while in administration Trump rules out Haley joining 2020 ticket MORE to be ambassador to the United Nations. Trump endorsed McMaster in a tweet over the weekend.

But McMaster has struggled to consolidate support from South Carolina Republicans, who do not see him as an obvious successor to either Trump or Haley. He is another sign — along with former Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeGOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries Roy Moore trails Republican field in Alabama The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back MORE (R-Ala.), or Pennsylvania's Rick Saccone — that Trump is better at causing problems for his fellow Republicans than he is at solving them.

Virginia GOP's job just got harder

Republicans are defending several U.S. House districts in Virginia, where the statewide vote has been trending to the left in recent years even as the GOP maintains control over a majority of congressional seats.

But Corey Stewart’s victory changes the calculus — and potentially endangers several Republican-held seats in November.

Stewart, a Minnesota native who nonetheless venerates Confederate statues, will face Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Health care moves to center stage of Democratic primary fight | Sanders, Biden trade sharps jabs on Medicare for All | Senate to vote on 9/11 bill next week | Buttigieg pushes for cheaper insulin Health care moves to center stage in Democratic primary fight Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress MORE (D) in November. Republicans privately worry that Stewart's arch-conservative presence on the ticket puts House seats held by Reps. Tom GarrettThomas (Tom) Alexander GarrettFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Ethics investigation finds outgoing House Republican made staff unload groceries, dog-sit Trump signs bill naming post office after soldier whose parents he attacked MORE (R), Dave Brat (R) and Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockProgressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers GOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door MORE (R) at risk.

Comstock was always going to be a top Democratic target, and her closer-than-expected margin in her GOP primary won’t engender any additional confidence in her reelection.

But now, Stewart guarantees the seats belonging to Garrett and Brat are on the Democratic radar too.

Women cruise to victory

In what has become a common theme on primary nights, Tuesday was another good night for female candidates.

Not including the four Democratic incumbents running for reelection in Virginia (who are all men), Virginia Democratic voters nominated women in six of their seven contested primaries.

The most prominent is state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, who had been the favorite to take on Comstock in one of the top races in the country. She defeated a crowded field that included two top female candidates, to win the nomination.

Democrats are also hopeful that Navy veteran Elaine Luria and former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger can possibly knock off Reps. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorFormer GOP rep launches Senate campaign in Virginia Virginia special prosecutor indicts former GOP campaign staffer The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (R) and Dave Brat (R), respectively. Both were clear favorites in their primaries, and will now have far tougher challenges.

Tuesday also brought good news for other female candidates in crowded races — Democrat Susie Lee won a key primary in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District and Arrington is poised to become the first female federal officeholder in South Carolina following her GOP primary victory.

But some women still fell short — Nevada Democrat Chris Giunchigliani lost her gubernatorial primary, while South Carolina Republican Catherine Templeton failed in her bid to make the gubernatorial runoff.

Another state Senate district turned blue

Democrats flipped their 25th Republican-held district since Trump’s inauguration with a victory in Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Democrat Caleb Frostman appears to have edged out state Assemblyman Andre Jacque (R) in Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District in the Madison area. Frostman is poised to win by a few points in a district that President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE won by 17 points during the 2016 presidential race.

Republicans appear to have successfully protected another GOP seat in a second special election.

The flipped seat slims the GOP’s control of the Senate to just a two-seat margin, raising Democratic hopes that the majority will be in reach in November.

And more broadly, another special election flip by the Democrats (Republicans have flipped just five Democratic-held seats since Trump’s inauguration) will add to the party’s optimism about turnout in November.