Former President Trump

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox each week leading up to November’s election. 

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Trump candidates have mixed night

For years, former President Trump has fancied himself an all-powerful kingmaker among Republicans, believing that his party’s voters would naturally gravitate toward his preferred candidates in even the most competitive races. 

The reality – as evidenced by Tuesday’s primaries – is more complicated than that

GOP voters handed Trump a clear win in North Carolina, choosing his endorsed Senate candidate, Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), over former Gov. Pat McCrory by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Likewise, former college football player Bo Hines clinched the Republican nomination in the state’s 13th congressional district with some help from the former president. 

But from there, the picture gets murkier. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), who has styled himself as one of Trump’s biggest allies in the House since taking office last year, was denied renomination on Tuesday, ultimately falling in his primary to a state senator who had the backing of prominent North Carolina Republicans like Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Likewise, Idaho Gov. Brad Little overcame a challenge from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who carried Trump’s endorsement in the race. 

Meanwhile, the GOP Senate primary in Pennsylvania remains deadlocked, denying Trump a decisive victory for his endorsed candidate in the race, celebrity physician Mehmet Oz. 

 
Of course, there were other factors at play beyond Trump’s endorsement. Oz faced questions about his conservative credentials and ties to the state he’s hoping to represent in the Senate, while Cawthorn was the subject of multiple controversies that ultimately turned many Republicans against him. 

 
And even Budd – perhaps Trump’s biggest success of the night – had outside help that may have ultimately played a bigger role in his victory than the former president’s endorsement. The Club for Growth, one of the biggest players in GOP primaries, spent more than $11 million to boost Budd in the primary.  

 
As Carter Wrenn, a longtime North Carolina Republican strategist, put it recently: “The spending they have done for Budd – if it weren’t for them he wouldn’t be where he is now. Did the Trump endorsement help him? Yeah, but was it that big of a deal? No, it wasn’t the decisive factor.” 

COUNTDOWN

173 days until the 2022 midterm elections

A good night for the left 

The left flank of the Democratic Party has had a rough go of it lately. Tuesday, however, was a different story.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman beat out a moderate rival, Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), in the state’s Democratic Senate primary, while state Rep. Summer Lee, a progressive aligned with the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), is leading attorney Steve Irwin in the nominating contest in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner is racking up a wide lead over moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) in the Democratic primary to represent Oregon’s 5th Congressional District. If Schrader loses, it could deal a particularly tough blow to President Biden, who gave him a rare endorsement late last month. 

To be sure, progressives also suffered some losses on Tuesday. Nida Allam, who carried the endorsements of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, lost a Democratic House primary in North Carolina’s 4th District, while former state Sen. Erica Smith lost a primary for another North Carolina House seat to state Sen. Don Davis.  

Still, Tuesday night gave progressives something to brag about at a time when the movement is struggling to expand its footprint within the Democratic Party. 

IN THE POLLS 

MO SENATE: Eric Greitens, the disgraced former Missouri governor, is leading the pack in the state’s Republican Senate primary. A new survey from KMOV-TV and SurveyUSA shows Greitens taking 26 percent of the vote, while Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt trails in second place with 17 percent. Only one other candidate, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), scored double-digit support, coming in at 11 percent. 

The big picture: It’s only one poll and other surveys have given Schmitt and Hartzler the lead. But Greitens is still in contention, despite concerns from top Republicans who fear the scandal-plagued former governor could cost them an otherwise safe Senate seat if he wins the Aug. 2 primary. As a reminder, Greitens resigned as governor in 2018 amid allegations that he sexually assaulted and blackmailed his hairstylist.  

A PUSH AGAINST TRUMP REPUBLICANS

Progressive group MoveOn announced on Tuesday that it would invest over $30 million into an election program known as “America for All: Us v. MAGA.” The campaign will target races ranging from Congress to gubernatorial elections as well as secretary of state candidates who are up against Trump-supporting Republicans.   

“The choice we face in 2022 was already a dire one between the majority who support democracy and helping all Americans thrive and MAGA Republicans who are so extreme they attempted to overthrow our government,” MoveOn Political Action Executive Director Rahna Epting said in a statement.   

The group said it has already endorsed 14 candidates and intends to add more to that list in the coming weeks.  

AD WATCH

Barnes’ TV debut: Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is out with the first television ad of his Senate campaign, unveiling a spot that talks up his “middle class roots.” The 30-second spot, according to Barnes’ campaign, “is the first ad in a multi-million dollar ad campaign that will begin in Milwaukee on broadcast, cable, and digital and expand throughout the state as the primary continues.” 

“Most Senators couldn’t tell you the cost of a gallon of milk. Or how much beef has gone up this year,” Barnes says in the ad. “But I’m not like most Senators, or any of the other millionaires running for Senate. My mom was a teacher, my dad worked third shift. I know how hard you’re working, and I know that by bringing manufacturing home, we create jobs and we lower costs. If we want to change Washington, we’ve got to change the people we send there.”  

Big spenders: State Sen. Chuck Edwards defeated Rep. Madison Cawthorn in the North Carolina district’s Republican primary on Tuesday after massively outspending the incumbent candidate.  

An ad tracking group, Medium Buying, reported that Edwards’s campaign spent $417,000 on television and radio advertisements, significantly more than Cawthorn’s $161,000 in advertisement spending. 

Other candidates also outspent Cawthorn including Bruce O’Connell’s campaign which spent $229,000 and Matthew Burril’s campaign which spent $197,000. 

Meanwhile, more than $55 million was spent in the Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary which includes businessman David McCormick, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, Medium Buying reported.  

The group’s data showed that Honor Pennsylvania, McCormick’s super PAC, spent the most of any group with nearly $18 million on radio and television ads followed by Oz’s campaign with $12.2 million and McCormick’s campaign with $10.63 million.  

Barnette’s campaign spent just $189,000, but she still saw a recent jump in the polls that was likely slowed by recent criticism from former President Trump.  

Oz led McCormick by a narrow margin of 2,672 votes, but with a potential recount looming, supporters did not yet know who won Tuesday night’s race.  

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week. 

VIEW THE FULL VERSION HERE.

Tags Eric Greitens Janice McGeachin John Fetterman Madison Cawthorn Mehmet Oz Pat McCrory Ted Budd Vicky Hartzler

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