5 final takeaways from the last primaries of 2022

Republicans are their worst enemy

Establishment Republicans and their allies poured millions of dollars into New Hampshire to block a far-right candidate, Don Bolduc, from running for the US Senate.

That wasn’t enough, as state Legislative Leader Chuck Morse conceded the primary on Wednesday morning, tying the GOP’s prospects of swinging the Senate in November to another problematic candidate — something the Republican leader of the Senate leader Mitch McConnell called it a “candidate quality” problem. .”

Even before Bolduc’s victory, Mehmet Oz was floundering in Pennsylvania. Blake Masters is underperforming in Arizona, and Republicans in Georgia and Ohio are mired in competitive races.

Bolduc seems likely to have equal difficulty attracting a general election audience. A retired Army brigadier general, he amplified Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, called the state’s popular Republican Governor Chris Sununu a “Chinese Communist sympathizer” and called the US military to “enter the field” in Ukraine.

It won’t take New Hampshire off the Republican map. The New Hampshire Senate race was a key part of the GOP’s effort to swing the Senate 50-50, and the Democratic senator. Maggie Hassan is vulnerable.

But it’s going to be a lot harder to eliminate him with Bolduc on the ballot.

“I just don’t think he has the discipline to run a serious campaign,” said a New Hampshire Republican familiar with the race. “The Democrats will have a field day.”

Sununu, in a radio interview, called Bolduc “a not serious candidate”.

Trump is back at the polls

It was a rare night that Donald Trump didn’t interfere in marquee races.

But even then, the presence of the former president was everywhere. On the same day as the last primary of the year, the Jan. 6 committee came to life again, as the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts to nullify the last election made headlines again. Cable networks were discussing documents found at Trump’s estate in Florida as polls in New Hampshire began to close.

And even if he didn’t approve on Tuesday, the primaries were all about Trump. In the New Hampshire Senate race, it was Buldoc who won not despite being ‘too trumpy’, as a former state party chairman told BBC News, but because of it. . He not only embraced Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, but, joining Trump against his latest challenger, raised the possibility of disbanding the FBI.

And in the race at New Hampshire House to face the Democratic representative. Chris Dadsboth leading Republicans — candidate Karoline Leavitt and runner-up Matt Mowers — have served in the Trump administration.

Even in his defeats — in Georgia, especially — the primaries have been shaped by how Trump or Republicans react to him. This is not the primary Republicans hoped to see nearly two years ago when Trump left office and Republicans hoped to focus the entire campaign on President Joe Biden and the economy.

Of the general election, said Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster, “The longer Trump is in the news, the easier it is for Democrats to make this an election of choice rather than a referendum” on Biden. and the outgoing party.

Trump’s Achilles Heel: Governors

It won’t be considered a loss on Trump’s scorecard, but the Trump world has been trying for months to find a credible Republican to challenge New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.

They failed, and the governor who called Trump a “fuckin’ fool” during a roast-style dinner earlier this year was declared the winner of his primary minutes after the polls closed.

The result, while hardly unexpected, marked Trump’s latest reprimand in a primary season that has largely gone well for him – but in which the gubernatorial races have been a stark exception. Earlier this year, it was Georgia Governor Brian Kemp who humiliated the Trump-endorsed candidate, and Idaho Governor Brad Little who beat his Trump-endorsed opponent. In Nebraska’s gubernatorial primary, incumbent Gov. Pete Ricketts’ political machine kept longtime Trump ally Charles Herbster from advancing.

These primaries have laid bare one of the few limits of Trump’s grip on the GOP – and a reminder that Trump is not the only Republican to attract the party. And going forward, Sununu is in a position to act as a thorn in Trump’s side. Unlike the governor of Nebraska or Idaho, he sits in the nation’s first presidential primary state, where Trump will seek support again in 2024 if, as expected, he runs for president.

Trump might have been better off not holding the gubernatorial election entirely. Incumbent governors seem to have particular appeal to primary voters — better able than House members or lower-level officials to cultivate brands that help them counter certain national party tendencies.

With Sununu’s primary victory — and Democratic Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee winning the same night — all 28 incumbent governors seeking re-election this year have won their primaries.

The 8 week pivot

The problem for Republicans now that the primary season is over isn’t just that they’re saddled with several less than ideal candidates. It’s that these candidates have so little time to change course before the general election.

Mail-in ballots for the general election have already been mailed to voters in North Carolina. Other states are lining up to do the same, and Election Day is only eight weeks away.

That’s not much time for Republicans to execute the classic pivot of party-base appeals to less strident pitches aimed at more moderate audiences in the general election; they are already cleaning up their campaign websites of their positions on abortion and putting their women in front of the cameras to soften their images.

And then there is the short time to raise funds. In New Hampshire, Bolduc said he had about $84,000 in cash at the end of August. Hassan was sitting on over $7 million.

“New Hampshire’s late primary is a real problem when it comes to picking incumbents,” said Jeff Grappone, a Republican strategist and former adviser to several New Hampshire Republicans, including former Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

“The deadline is very short… It doesn’t give the non-incumbents much of a lead.”

Surprise: a criminal conviction remains a problem

Since the Access Hollywood tape, old ideas about the importance of a scandal have mostly faded away.

But in Delaware on Tuesday, a throwback: The Democratic state auditor lost his primary after being found guilty of official misconduct and a conflict of interest while in office, for offenses resulting from hiring of his daughter.

It wasn’t exactly Watergate, and the outcome was not a foregone conclusion.

The prosecution of the hearer, Kathy McGuiness, was “very aggressive,” Bob Byrd, a former Democratic state representative from Delaware, said in an interview. “I think this one was overdone…many politicians hired their kids.”

But it was a criminal conviction nonetheless, and Delaware voters punished McGuiness for it.

When the state’s Democratic Party backed its primary opponent, Lydia York, state party chair Betsy Maron told Delaware reporters it was an opportunity to “get rid of theater policy that has kept the incumbent center stage for all the wrong reasons.”


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