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.

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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 SanfordMark SanfordOn The Money: Business world braces for blue sweep | Federal Reserve chief to outline plans for inflation, economy | Meadows 'not optimistic' about stalemate on coronavirus deal Trump critic Sanford forms anti-debt advocacy group Republicans officially renominate Trump for president 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.

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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) Haley'The soul' versus 'law and order' Author Ryan Girdusky: RNC worked best when highlighting 'regular people' as opposed to 'standard Republicans' GOP lobbyists pleasantly surprised by Republican convention 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 StrangeSessions hits back at Trump days ahead of Alabama Senate runoff The biggest political upsets of the decade State 'certificate of need' laws need to go 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 KaineFears grow of chaotic election Trump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink 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 GarrettInternal poll shows neck-and-neck race brewing in Virginia House contest GOP congressman loses primary after officiating gay wedding Virginia GOP to pick House nominee after candidate misses filing deadline MORE (R), Dave Brat (R) and Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Gun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats 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 TaylorBottom line Bottom line Republican Scott Taylor wins Virginia primary, to face Elaine Luria in rematch 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 TrumpCensus Bureau intends to wrap up count on Oct. 5 despite judge's order Top House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents New Yorkers report receiving ballots with wrong name, voter addresses MORE won by 17 points during the 2016 presidential race.

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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.