Nate Jackson / August 3, 2022

How Large Does Trump Loom in the Primaries?

While much of the media focus is churn, there is a battle in the GOP over the party’s direction.

The mainstream media loves to nationalize political races, especially when it’s a special election or a primary. Yesterday’s primaries in Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington were no exception. Did Donald Trump win or lose? That was the biggest question for the media scribes and talkingheads who’d rather not focus on the political misfortunes of Joe Biden and the Democrats.

Part of the attention on Trump was certainly legitimate given that three GOP members of Congress who voted to impeach him (the second time) faced primary challenges. Two of them appear to have survived — Jamie Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, both of Washington. In Michigan, however, Peter Meijer lost to Trump-and-Democrat-backed John Gibbs, who in turn is now the underdog against Democrat Hillary Scholten.

Update 8/10: Herrera Beutler has now conceded defeat after being overtaken by late vote tallies.

A couple of Senate primary races also drew the national spotlight in large part over Trump’s 2020 election claims. First, in Missouri, Trump held off issuing an endorsement, leaving former Governor Eric Greitens, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, and 18 other Republicans to battle it out. At the last minute, Trump finally did “announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” That rather amusing bit of trolling probably didn’t affect the outcome, though both Erics claimed the endorsement and the MAGA mantle. Schmitt ran away with victory, while Greitens couldn’t overcome his own sordid personal story and Hartzler couldn’t convince voters looking for a fighter that she is one. After all, Schmitt liked to repeat a favorite line: “I get up in the morning, I go to work, I sue Joe Biden, I go home.” That obviously resonated with voters fed up with everything about Biden.

Second, in Arizona, venture capitalist Blake Masters secured Trump’s endorsement two months ago and he cruised to the Republican nomination for Senate. He’ll face incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly in November. Masters campaigned heavily on Trump’s contention that Democrats stole Arizona from him in 2020. (The same, by the way, goes for Kari Lake in her bid for Arizona governor. Her race against Karrin Taylor Robson is too close to call.) The Arizona GOP has been less receptive to the claims that voter fraud was decisive. A Republican-backed review last year found no proof of decisive fraud, and a new report shows one vote cast under a dead person’s name. One.

The Washington Post predictably threw out the media’s new favorite “election denier” label regarding yesterday’s contests. “Several election deniers backed by former president Donald Trump prevailed in closely-watched primaries held Tuesday,” the paper reported, “as a nationwide battle over the future of the GOP played out in state and federal races across five states.”

The GOP is indeed working to determine its stance on election integrity, especially when it comes to the Democrats’ bulk-mail ballot strategy. Unfortunately, this debate is too often undermined by the propensity to either utterly deny any election fraud or to head down conspiracy rabbit holes.

The entire debate depends on the meaning of fraud, but most media outlets and, frankly, most candidates themselves are too busy screaming black-and-white claims to talk about it honestly.

Finally, another much-watched item on the ballot Tuesday was a proposed amendment to the Kansas state constitution declaring that it “does not create or secure a right to abortion.” Notably, the right does not currently exist in the Kansas constitution, though the state’s Supreme Court managed to discover in 2019 that this “fundamental” right had been hiding there ever since 1859. In the first such post-Roe vote in the nation, Kansans rejected that proposal nearly two-to-one despite expectations that it would pass. Kentucky is next in November, while Michigan and Vermont voters will consider adding a right to abortion to their constitutions.

(Updated)

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