Party primaries test power of Trump’s backing and progressive platform

The 2022 midterm election campaign season will be full of political thrills, chills and spills. Tuesday, there were shocking developments in primaries in Pennsylvania, Oregon, North Carolina and Idaho. Next week, primary contests in Texas and Georgia will heighten the drama.

Trump report card

Former President Donald Trump still has some sway over GOP primary voters, but he clearly doesn’t have enough juice to turn fetid water into fine wine. His endorsement and the votes of his supporters may have helped boost candidates Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and J.D. Vance in Ohio in wide-open races. But Trump’s backing was not powerful enough to save Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina or Janice McGeachin in Idaho. Cawthorn, the scandal-ridden congressman, lost his quest for reelection. McGeachin, the Lt. Gov. of Idaho, who has ties to the right-wing extremist groups, lost her primary campaign against the incumbent Gov. Brad Little.

Trump won big Tuesday in the GOP U.S. Senate fight in North Carolina where he supported the winner, Rep. Ted Budd, who beat former Gov. Pat McCrory. But the former president’s hit or miss record in the early primaries is unlikely to scare off his own challengers — other GOP presidential hopefuls like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Gov. DeSantis who may run for the GOP nomination in 2024.

Trump may have put Budd, Vance and Oz (pending a recount) over the top, but he’s also may have made enemies of Gov. Brad Little of Idaho and Jim Pillen of Nebraska this primary season. Little and Pillen will likely be the governors of these bedrock GOP states when Trump likely makes another bid for the presidency. They probably will not look kindly at the candidacy of the man who endorsed their primary opponents in heated contests for governors’ mansions.

Pennsylvania primary

Along with Michigan and Wisconsin in the industrial Midwest, Pennsylvania is a battleground state that plays an important role in presidential politics and occupies vital terrain in the midterm election battles.

The possible Supreme Court reversal of the right to reproductive freedom guaranteed in Roe v. Wade will likely weigh heavily in a state where are majority of voters support abortion rights. The open seats in the races for governor and U.S. senator will present a crystal-clear and compelling contrast between Democratic and Republican candidates on the grounds of abortion rights.

Trump backed Oz, the celebrity surgeon, for U.S. Senate and currently leads his opponent, McCormick, by a slim margin. However, the pending recount will determine the victor.

Fetterman won a decisive victory in the Democratic Pennsylvania primary for U.S. Senate. The battle for this open seat has national implications because the outcome may determine whether Democrats can retain control of the upper house of Congress.

The contest for governor will feature the Democratic Attorney General Ben Shapiro and GOP State Sen. Doug Mastriano, another Republican endorsed by Trump.

The state, which President Joe Biden won narrowly, will be a hotly contested key to the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. Mastriano gained a following advocating to overturn Biden’s presidential win in favor of Trump. If Mastriano wins the gubernatorial race, he will be able to appoint the secretary of State who will oversee elections — including the 2024 presidential race.

Progressive progress

Fetterman’s big win was a significant victory for progressive Democrats. He is  a strong backer of Sen. Bernie Sander (I-Vt.). He roundly defeated Rep. Conor Lamb, a moderate Democrat.

He’s not the only one: In Oregon, liberal challenger Janice McLeod-Skinner leads the moderate Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader who had the endorsement of Biden. 

Both progressives were able to tie their opponents to moderate Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.  If Fetterman and McLeod-Skinner win their election battles in the fall, there may be an increased progressive presence in diminished Democratic caucuses in Congress. These primary battles could be a preview of the ideological fight for the Democratic presidential nomination between progressive and moderates in 2024, if Biden does not run for reelection.  

May 24th primaries

Primary battles in Texas and Georgia are next up on the campaign calendar on May 24.

A runoff in Texas offers another battle between a moderate Democratic House incumbent and a progressive challenger. Rep. Henry Cuellar is in a tight race with a liberal candidate Linda Cisneros. Cuellar is anti-abortion and his home was recently raided in connection to an FBI investigation. Voters are not kind to incumbents when they are in a fulsome mood. He could become the next — and not the last — member of Congress to bite the dust in this contentious campaign cycle.

Also on May 24: Battles in Georgia. Trump’s power of endorsement faces another key primary test in Georgia, where he backed former U.S. Senator David Perdue in his race against Gov. Brian Kemp in the race for governor. Like Mastriano, Perdue is an election denier, and Trump is not fond of the incumbent, Kemp, who certified Biden’s victory in this swing state in 2020. Perdue trails in the race and if Kemp holds on, he still faces a difficult challenge from Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams. It’s set to be another purple state contest that has vital ramifications for this November and the presidential race of 2024.

These primaries are just the beginning of a long marathon thru 2022, so stay tuned for further developments in the many months ahead on the long and winding road to November.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags 2020 election 2022 midterm elections brad little Democrats Donald Trump Janice McGeachin Joe Biden Madison Cawthorn Politics Republicans Ted Budd

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