State GOPs split on whether to nominate Trump hardliners


Few states have benefited as much from nominating the right kind of moderate Republican in recent years as Maryland. Larry Hogan became two-term governor of a deep blue state, distancing himself from his national party and Donald Trump when needed.

Maryland Republicans reacted to that in Tuesday’s primary by nominating Dan Cox, a truthful Trump-backed voter who Hogan called “QAnon wack workabout a former Hogan aide in the race to succeed Hogan. And as Vice’s Cameron Joseph notes, Cox probably isn’t even the most extreme candidate chosen by Republicans in Maryland: That accolade goes to Attorney General’s nominee Michael Peroutka, who a few years ago belonged to an extremist group. called League of the South.

The Maryland GOP’s shift to the right in Tuesday’s primary is just the latest example of states going in wildly different directions as the party faces a potentially post-Trump future. He joins Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania in naming several hard-line election truthers and more extreme Trump-backed candidates — candidates who could jeopardize GOP hopes in November.

But many states have charted a very different course, refusing to put these candidates on the ballot in several marquee races. Topping the list is Georgia, where Trump-backed candidates have lost a series of lopsided contests. These candidates have also failed in a series of races in Colorado, Idaho and Nebraska, among other states.

The first thing to note here is that there are many shades of gray. Republican candidates have challenged the 2020 election in different ways. Some say the election was “stolen” or “rigged,” while others simply warn of the dangers of voter fraud and refrain from saying President Biden’s victory was legitimate. But there are some notable cracks when you examine the issue state by state, as we can with the help of a breakdown by Amy Gardner and Isaac Arnsdorf of the Post last month.

In Pennsylvania, gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, like Cox, chartered buses for Trump’s ‘stop the steal’ rally on Jan. 6, and he’s so extreme that national Republicans have suggested he might not justify their support in November. He is joined on the general election ballot by Trump-backed Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, who has sided with Trump in the election and is claiming more than his main opponent. And most of the state’s GOP congressional candidates rejected or questioned the 2020 election results, according to Gardner and Arnsdorf’s review — including every candidate in a GOP-leaning district.

In Nevada, Trump-backed candidates have won the primaries for governor, Senate and secretary of state, with nominees from the past two races advancing particularly novel theories about and prescriptions for what happened in 2020.

And in Michigan, the GOP picked two little-known figures who played central roles in promoting Trump’s baseless voter fraud allegations in the races for attorney general and secretary of state.

The situation is quite different in a handful of other states.

In Georgia, six Trump-backed candidates lost — about half of his national total — including in lopsided contests in three statewide races. Primary voters also made the remarkable decision to renominate prominent Trump critic and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R).

In Colorado, election truthers lost the primaries for governor, Senate and secretary of state, despite Democrats seeking to meddle in the primaries to elevate more extreme candidates.

In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little (right) easily dismissed a challenge from Trump-backed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin as the winner of the race for Secretary of State was the only candidate to say that Biden had won the 2020 election. (The attorney general race was a different story, with longtime incumbent Lawrence Wasden losing his primary after refusing to join numerous other AGs in supporting Texas’ lawsuit to nullify the election of 2020.)

In Nebraska, Charles Herbster, a participant in the Trump-backed ‘Stop Theft’ rally, lost the governor’s primary, and election truthers also lost in the races for attorney general and secretary of state to candidates who don’t have not advanced such theories.

You could also argue for including other states that haven’t gone to extremes, including Arkansas. There, the party chose non-election truthers for the Senate, attorney general and secretary of state, according to The Post’s review.

(Arkansas GOP gubernatorial candidate Sarah Sanders is a former White House aide to Trump who questioned the 2020 election results. But she stopped talking about the speech” stolen” – probably partly because she was still such a huge favorite.)

So why the divergent verdicts on the course chosen for the GOP? Certainly, candidates matter, and in many of these races, the election veracious were running on it because they needed something – anything – to make a name for themselves.

There are also regional trends. The Western, Plains, and even Southern states seem more willing to go down a more traditional, conservative path (Nevada being the notable exception in the West). The states that have opted the most for Trumpian candidates tend to be in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.

But a very likely contributor is the format of the primaries.

Of the four states we’ve highlighted as going hard-right, three of them have closed primaries — that is, only Republicans can vote — while the fourth, Michigan, has chose its AG and Secretary of State nominees at a party convention, a process dominated by activists.

Of the states we’ve highlighted as taking a more traditional conservative path, three have open primaries in which anyone can vote, which could have contributed to the lopsided margins Trump’s nominees suffered in Georgia. Two others have semi-open primaries in which independent voters can participate — such as in Colorado, where unaffiliated voters went disproportionately for GOP contests.

As in Georgia, this does not mean that the main format was decisive. But it makes sense to assume that it mattered. There is also evidence that the West is less committed to Trump’s vision for the party, and most of Trump’s endorsement setbacks have come somewhat surprisingly in the South. (Alabama, in particular, has proven a surprising bugaboo for Trump endorsements over the years.)

What is clear is that a party that is increasingly divided on whether to move forward with Trump and his brand of politics often splits its verdict by state. And with some key matchups to come, including Aug. 2 in Arizona — a western state with a half-open primary — we’ll be keeping an eye on those trends.


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