Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Five states held primary elections on Tuesday.
They once again tested former President Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican side – with mixed results; President Biden appears to have suffered a loss with one of his endorsements; a key US Senate race is too close to announce; and a controversial member of Congress lost his bid for re-election.
The results are here – well, most of them. Here is some of what they tell us:
1. Waiting for Pennsylvania
The star state was Pennsylvania, and in particular the key Senate race there. In the GOP primary, Mehmet Oz — that’s famed TV doctor Dr. Oz — was pitted against David McCormick, a former hedge fund chief who spent millions of his own money in the race, and to conservative commentator Kathy Barnette.
A late push from Barnette may have held Oz back. Oz won Trump’s endorsement, but was led by just over 2,000 votes over McCormick, as of noon ET Wednesday. Barnette was more MAGA than Trump. Trump’s choice of Oz was controversial, as many in his base don’t see him as truly conservative.
An automatic recount is triggered in Pennsylvania when the results are within 0.5 percentage points, meaning the results likely won’t be known immediately. That would be bad news for Republicans, as a recount would delay the start of the general election in this Senate race, which Democrats see as their best pick-up opportunity as they try to retain control of the chamber.
Trump, who has repeatedly pushed baseless allegations of voter fraud, would have posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, that Oz “should declare victory. It’s much harder for them to cheat with the ballots they ‘just found.'”
The Democratic candidate, as expected, is Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who won his primary in a landslide – although Fetterman suffered a stroke days earlier and had a pacemaker implanted in him on primary day. This race promises to be dramatic and Dearperhaps the most expensive in the country.
2. The Trump endorsements were a mixed bag
Trump may have had a big victory a few weeks ago in the Republican Senate primary in Ohio, but this week was a little different.
As noted, Oz struggled to the end, although he may succeed, but that endorsement only came after Trump backed another candidate for that seat from Pennsylvania who dropped out due to domestic violence allegations.
His gubernatorial choice, State Senator Doug Mastriano, won the nomination. He is a controversial figure. He pushes Trump’s election lies and was at Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, 2021, but says he left before the violent insurgency took place.
In North Carolina, Trump’s pick for that key Senate race, Rep. Ted Budd, won hands down. Trump had to step in early and often in this race, as Budd faced off against a former governor and congressman — and even Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara had fun running for that seat early.
In Idaho, his incendiary choice for governor lost. Gov. Brad Little looks set for re-election, despite a rise in political right-wing extremism in the state.
Trump’s influence carried less weight in the North Carolina poll, however, as controversial freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn was defeated.
3. Cawthorn loss shows Republicans have a line – don’t cross it them.
Cawthorn has landed in multiple scandals since arriving in Washington, D.C. But he’s far from the first controversial figure on the right. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Laurent Boebert. Paul Gosar. Matt Gaetz. And on. They and others have all said and done controversial things with fiery rhetoric and jaw-dropping commentary. They were sometimes rebuffed, such as when Greene and Gosar spoke at an event hosted by a white nationalist. But they’re still members of Congress, for now.
What Cawthorn did was different. Among other scandals — like two attempts to smuggle a gun through airport security — he ran into his own GOP colleagues. He accused them of going to cocaine and sex parties – and that was apparently a step too far.
Still, Cawthorn came close enough – he lost less than 2 percentage points, or around 1,300 votes. It shows the power of the incumbent, even for a scandal-ridden freshman.
4. Biden’s influence may be limited
If the results of Oregon’s 5th congressional district race are any indication, President Biden’s influence over his own party’s voters might not go that far.
Biden scored a victory two weeks ago in a congressional race in Ohio, when Rep. Shontel Brown beat former state Senator Nina Turner in a clash between establishment and progress. But Brown has already appeared on a glide path to re-election.
And this week, longtime Oregon Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader appears to be heading for defeat in this new district. He was trailing attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner by more than 20 points, as of noon ET, although only 53% of the estimated vote was due to a printing error in one county.
Schrader is a moderate targeted by progressives. The race has divided prominent members of the Democratic Party both locally and nationally – and it could show the winds of change in the party, whose leader is unpopular nationally.
Also in Oregon, history is likely to be made in the governor’s office. Former State House Speaker Tina Kotek navigated the Democratic nomination in the left-leaning state. If Kotek wins the governorship, she would become the first openly lesbian governor elected in the country.