Winners and losers from Tuesday’s primaries
Key primary battles were fought in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia on Tuesday, while Texas held closely watched runoff elections.
Here are the big winners and losers.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R)
Former President Trump went all-out to oust Kemp, who had resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn President Biden’s 2020 victory in the Peach State.
Many people thought that would spell doom for Kemp. In the end he won in a landslide, battering Trump’s choice, former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), by around 50 points.
Political insiders point to several factors to explain Kemp’s success. He is a staunch conservative, despite drawing Trump’s ire. He used the levers of power to lock up support from key players. And he has taken actions that are very popular with Republican voters, from suspending the state’s gas tax to reopening Georgia promptly after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic had passed.
Kemp also avoided firing directly back at Trump, despite the former president’s frequent fusillades against him.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Kemp made only the most glancing of allusions to what he had gone through, saying “Conservatives across our state didn’t listen to the noise. They didn’t get distracted.”
The words were mil,d but the result was dramatic.
Former Vice President Mike Pence and the GOP establishment
Kemp’s race was the marquee event on Tuesday, and he got help on his way to victory.
The most conspicuous came from Pence, who held a rally with Kemp on the eve of the primary — a startling break by Pence from his former boss.
There were others who came to Kemp’s side, including Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Christie tweeted after the results came in that Georgia Republicans had proven that they “were not going to kick out a great Governor or be willing participants in the DJT Vendetta Tour.”
Kemp’s win was also a vindication for the Republican Governors Association, which spent around $5 million to keep him in office.
The GOP establishment also won at least a partial victory in Alabama, where Katie Britt won a firm plurality of voters in the Republican Senate primary.
Britt is a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
She advances to a runoff against firebrand Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala), who had been endorsed by Trump but later lost that endorsement.
On Wednesday morning, with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Britt had roughly 45 percent of the vote to Brooks’s 29 percent.
Some Trump loyalists
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for candidates aligned with the former president.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former White House press secretary, easily won the GOP gubernatorial primary in Arkansas. That makes Sanders the red-hot favorite to win the general election in November and assume the same office once held by her father, Mike Huckabee.
Former football star Herschel Walker won the Georgia Senate primary with ease as well. Walker now faces off against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) in November — one of the nation’s most closely watched races.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) took around 70 percent of the vote in her primary in the state’s 14th District.
Green, who has sparked numerous controversies, was widely expected to win a plurality of the vote in the conservative district, but critics within the local GOP had hoped she might at least have been held under 50 percent of the vote, which would have forced a runoff.
She easily avoided that fate.
Stacey Abrams and Georgia Democrats
Abrams, who lost a narrow race to Kemp in 2018, was unopposed for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Georgia this year.
But Abrams also stands to benefit from any lasting divisions on the Republican side. Trump has more than once suggested that GOP voters will not come out for Kemp. If those ill feelings linger, they will boost Abrams’s chances of victory.
Democrats in the Peach State also appeared to have scored a more unusual victory. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) — who was asked by Trump in the wake of the 2020 election to “find” enough votes to cancel out Biden’s winning margin — won his GOP primary with unexpected ease over the Trump-backed Rep. Jody Hice.
A significant number of Democrats appear to have crossed over to vote in the GOP primary, likely playing some role in Raffensperger’s margin of victory, which hovered around 20 points Wednesday morning.
Former President Trump
Tuesday was Trump’s worst primary night to date.
He spent more than $2 million to try to defeat Kemp, to no avail. Raffensperger’s victory was another bitter pill for the former president to swallow. And the wins for Trump favorites like Walker and Sanders were expected, so they will have limited impact.
The results in Georgia may breed further problems for Trump. They prove that defying his wishes on the 2020 election is not, after all, politically fatal — even in Republican primaries. And they deepen questions about the former president’s hold on his party.
To be sure, Trump has scored victories this primary season. His backing clearly helped propel author J.D. Vance to victory in the Ohio Senate primary.
But Trump’s picks for governor have also lost GOP primaries in Idaho and Nebraska, while another high-profile choice, TV personality Mehmet Oz, has yet to clinch the Senate nomination in Pennsylvania.
Tuesday’s results show an unexpected loosening of Trump’s grip on the GOP.
For the left of the Democratic Party, Tuesday was mainly about one race — the runoff election in Texas’s 28th District between incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and challenger Jessica Cisneros.
Cisneros is a favorite of the left, drawing the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Cuellar, by contrast, is perhaps the single most conservative Democrat left in the House.
Cuellar held a tiny lead as of noon Wednesday, though the result is not yet final. If Cuellar holds onto his lead, it will be a big blow to the left, who derides the congressman as “the Joe Manchin of the House.”
The mere fact that the race is so tight is deepening Democratic divisions. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) backed Cueller, to the fury of the left.
“Democratic leadership rallied for a pro-NRA, anti-choice incumbent under investigation in a close primary,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted to her 13 million followers with the race in the balance. “This was an utter failure of leadership.”
Former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.)
Perdue, who lost his Senate seat in early 2021, was reportedly reluctant to come out of retirement to challenge Kemp.
In the end, he seems to have been persuaded that Trump’s backing would be a magic ticket that would deliver him victory.
In the end, even people sympathetic to Purdue complained that his campaign lacked energy and focus. The sheer scale of his loss is an embarrassment that will surely end his political career.
In an era when many of the old political rules have been trashed, Tuesday underlined the power of incumbency.
It wasn’t just the victories for Kemp and Raffensperger that made the point.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) coasted to victory in her primary. In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) turned aside a challenge from George P. Bush, a scion of the famous family. In Arkansas, Sen. John Boozman (R) had a comfortable victory in his primary despite a challenger who had hope to mobilize Trump’s MAGA base.
If Cueller pulls out a narrow victory on the Democratic side in Texas, it will be one more piece of evidence that ousting a sitting officeholder is almost always a difficult task.
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