After a string of successful endorsements in Republican primaries and special elections, President Trump has hit a rough patch. Two candidates Trump opposed in GOP candidates primaries won on Tuesday night, not long after an incumbent the president endorsed was ousted at a Virginia state party convention.
The results have some questioning whether Trump’s anemic national poll numbers — he now trails presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 10.1 points in the RealClearPolitics average — have finally taken a toll on his stranglehold over the party, or at least his sway with rank-and-file Republican voters.
“For a president who has relied on a base-first strategy at all costs, hoping to win reelection without courting new voters, even the slightest slippage among rock-solid Republicans is alarming,” writes National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, who tweeted after Tuesday’s election results that “Trump’s Midas touch with Republicans not looking as strong these days.”
Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia was booted at the state’s drive-thru GOP candidates convention earlier this month despite Trump’s endorsement. Riggleman took just 42% of the vote to challenger Bob Good’s 58%. Social conservatives had raised eyebrows over the incumbent officiating a same-sex wedding, though it’s not clear that was the decisive issue in his defeat.
More strikingly, Trump backed the handpicked successor to his new White House chief of staff, former North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, in the Republican primary in the state’s 11th District. But the Trump-endorsed candidate, Lynda Bennett, lost to 24-year-old newcomer Madison Cawthorn by a decisive 65.8% to a 34.2% margin.
While Trump never actually endorsed the primary challenger to Rep. Thomas Massie, he did call on Republicans to “throw Massie out of the Republican Party!” Instead, the Kentucky lawmaker won renomination in a landslide, taking over 87% of the vote and holding his opponent to less than 2,000 votes total. Massie told the Washington Examiner in March that running afoul of Trump on the coronavirus economic rescue package “might cost me my reelection.”
At the beginning of June, the Republican National Committee boasted, “President Trump has an undefeated record of candidate endorsements this cycle,” pointing to a 64-0 record in primaries and special elections in 2020. Recent votes put only a tiny dent in that total, and caveats apply to each of them.
None of the recent Republican primary winners opposed Trump.
“They probably should be more discerning in who they publicly support,” said Republican strategist John Feehery. “It’s always better to back the candidate who is going to win. Good was a better fit for the district. Massie was never going to lose to his opponent. And Cawthorn has a compelling personal story and is a strong supporter of the president. So I don’t think it is a rejection of the president. It’s more of an ‘all politics are local’ kind of thing.”
Massie also ran as a supporter of the president, who had stopped tweeting about him long in advance of the primary, vowing to “fight with you and President Trump against the extremist Democratic party.” Rep. Liz Cheney had donated money to Massie challenger Todd McMurtry only to have to backtrack when press reports uncovered controversial comments. Trump never mentioned his name. Read More……………