Donald Trump showed weakness in the suburbs in Tuesday’s primaries, while Joe Biden’s problem with the protest vote appeared to fade.

David Trone collapsed in Maryland’s Senate race, despite his heavy spending. Meanwhile, incumbents there and in Nebraska and West Virginia all prevailed.

The big winners on Tuesday included the Democratic establishment in Maryland, which propelled Angela Alsobrooks to victory over Trone; the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which notched a victory in a Democratic House primary; and House incumbents, who still haven’t lost to a challenger so far this primary season.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries in three states:

Closed primaries didn’t eliminate the warning signs for Trump

A week after Nikki Haley earned 22 percent of the vote in Indiana’s open GOP primary, the widespread expectation was that different rules in the states voting on Tuesday would take a huge chunk out of support for her zombie presidential candidacy.

That didn’t exactly happen. Even though Haley likely won’t end up matching her Indiana total in Maryland, Nebraska or West Virginia, there are still some warning signs for Trump in the results.

Unlike Indiana, where voters can pick any primary ballot they’d like, the GOP primary was open only to registered Republicans in Maryland and Nebraska, and registered Republicans and independents in West Virginia.

Despite its semi-open primary, West Virginia was the Trumpiest of the three states: The former president captured 88 percent of the vote there. But there were significant pockets of Trump resistance among Republicans in Maryland and Nebraska.

It wasn’t shocking to see Haley break 30 percent in the affluent D.C. suburbs of Montgomery County, Maryland. Trump has been weakest in the suburbs throughout the primary process, and Montgomery County towns like Bethesda and Takoma Park represent the beating heart of the Trump resistance.

But it’s more concerning for Trump that she’s at 23 percent in Douglas County, Nebraska, the population center for that state’s 2nd Congressional District. Now-President Biden won the Omaha district’s electoral vote in 2020 thanks to GOP defectors, and Tuesday’s primary showed they’re still not on board with Trump.

The Democratic establishment strikes back

It’s hard to overstate the extent of Trone’s failure on Tuesday. Yes, there’s the $62 million in self-funding — the second-most of any Senate candidate in history, behind only Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who actually won his race.

But there’s also this: Trone began his blitz of TV ads on May 9. Of 2023. A full year to build momentum and capture the Democratic nomination, and it all washed out over the past two months, when the state party establishment coalesced behind Alsobrooks. One of her final TV spots featured a mass of Democratic elected officials supporting her, from Gov. Wes Moore and Sen. Chris Van Hollen to former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

The message was clear — the party apparatus was in Alsobrooks’ corner — and Democratic voters responded to it. Those same cues will likely be needed again in the fall to remind voters of the stakes in the general election.

Despite early polls showing Hogan ahead, Maryland is one of the bluest states in the nation, and the argument that it’s more important to elect a Democrat to maintain Senate control than vote for a popular former Republican governor could be an effective one. But it will take money to do it, and that will likely have to come from national Democrats now that Trone’s checkbook is closed — money they would rather spend defending the chamber’s most likely majority-making seats in Montana and Ohio.

The Biden protest vote fizzles

It’s been a paradox for Democrats fretting about Biden’s standing in the polls: Republicans are more likely to say they’ll vote for Trump in general-election polling than Democrats are for Biden, but there are more protest votes in the primaries against Trump.

That continued Tuesday in Maryland and Nebraska, where Biden outran Trump significantly by percentage. In Nebraska, Biden was breaking 90 percent of the vote against Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), even as Trump was stuck in the low 80s against Haley. And in Maryland, the “uncommitted” ballot line was poised to earn about 10 percent of the vote, with the greatest concentrations in the Republican counties of far Western Maryland.

The exception was West Virginia, which had also delivered a surprising rebuke to the last Democratic president up for reelection. Then-President Barack Obama was famously held under 60 percent in West Virginia’s 2012 primary against ex-con Keith Judd. On Tuesday, Biden was running barely over 70 percent, with Jason Palmer, the surprising winner of the March caucuses in American Samoa, drawing more than 10 percent of the vote.

A protest vote in ruby-red West Virginia didn’t doom Obama in 2012, and it’s not likely an additional sign of trouble for Biden, who has plenty of headaches already. He can take some solace in the protest vote appearing to fade in Maryland and Nebraska.

Big-spending outside groups notched wins, while self-funders flopped

Outside spending groups had a good night. Self-funders, not so much.

United Democracy Project, the super PAC arm of AIPAC, scored a major win with Democratic state Sen. Sarah Elfreth’s victory in the crowded race to succeed retiring Rep. John Sarbanes in Maryland’s deep-blue 3rd District. The group put in more than $4 million — one of its biggest investments to date. That heavy spending played a role in her success over Harry Dunn, a former Capitol Police officer who gained national prominence for his testimony in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot. Dunn far outraised and outspent her directly, but the AIPAC money helped narrow the spending gap.

The anti-tax Club for Growth also secured a victory in the GOP primary for governor of West Virginia. After the group and its affiliated super PAC poured more than $13 million into the race, Club-backed Attorney General Patrick Morrisey emerged from the contentious and expensive primary. (The group didn’t have as much luck in the Republican primary for West Virginia Senate, where its endorsed candidate, Rep. Alex Mooney, lost to Gov. Jim Justice.)

Self-funding candidates fared worse. In addition to Trone’s defeat, businessperson Chris Miller, the son of Rep. Carol Miller, loaned himself more than $5 million for his bid for West Virginia governor, helping him blanket the airwaves. He was the top spender on advertisements, placing more than $10 million, per ad tracker AdImpact. Despite all that, he ended up finishing in third.

Incumbents flex their muscle

Incumbents in every congressional primary faced challengers on Tuesday night — and all of them overwhelmingly won.

Primary challengers have had a weak showing so far this cycle, with no non-incumbent challenger successfully ousting a sitting member of Congress. (Rep. Barry Moore, a Republican from Alabama, defeated fellow Rep. Jerry Carl in a rare member-on-member primary earlier this year).

Some of Tuesday’s primary attempts, like the ones in most of Maryland, were less serious, featuring underfunded and little-known candidates. But Republicans challenging Rep. Don Bacon in Nebraska and Rep. Carol Miller in West Virginia caused the incumbents and their allies to put up their guard.

Bacon’s and Miller’s challengers — businessperson Dan Frei and former state Del. Derrick Evans, respectively — ran to the right of the incumbents, the latest examples of the ideological fractures in GOP primaries. Frei and Evans both earned the endorsement of Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good, and Frei had the support of Nebraska’s increasingly anti-establishment state Republican Party, which snubbed all of its incumbents this year.

Both challengers were considered longshots. But Frei’s candidacy was serious enough to cause Bacon’s allies to put more than $1 million on the airwaves. And Miller went negative against Evans, who served prison time for his participation in the Capitol riot, accusing him of being a Democrat.

Frei and Evans ultimately lost by wide margins, which is likely good news for Republicans in November. A potential Evans win wouldn’t have changed much for the GOP’s chances of holding the majority in the fall, given he was running in a deep-red district. But a Frei victory could have been disastrous for the Republican Party.

The Omaha-based seat went for Biden in 2020, and nominating a Republican to the right of Bacon, who touts himself as a “common-sense conservative,” would have created a bigger opening for Democratic state Sen. Tony Vargas. Still, Democrats are bullish on the seat after Vargas lost to Bacon by just three points in the midterms.

Read the full article here

Share.
Leave A Reply