These GOP gubernatorial primaries have become 'mini-referendums' on Trump’s influence: report

These GOP gubernatorial primaries have become 'mini-referendums' on Trump’s influence: report

Between President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, the January 6, 2021 insurrection, Donald Trump’s second impeachment and Democrats regaining control of the U.S. Senate, Republicans have had plenty of reasons to distance themselves from the United States’ former president. Instead, Trump still has considerable influence in the Republican Party. Countless Republicans, in the 2022 midterms, have been jumping through hoops to show the GOP base how MAGA they are — including gubernatorial candidates.

Journalist Zach Montellaro, in an article published by Politico on April 6, stresses that GOP gubernatorial primaries in “more than half a dozen states” in May have “turned into mini-referendums on the former president” — and it remains to be seen how the candidates Trump has endorsed will perform compared the ones he hasn’t endorsed.

“He’s directly backing candidates challenging two sitting GOP governors, and a flock of other Republicans are running in his image — even without his blessing,” Montellaro reports. “Both allies and opponents of Trump see the May primaries as a test of his staying power, believing the outcome will offer signs of how powerful he remains two years out from the next presidential election.”

Montellaro points out that “many Republican candidates” have been “clamoring for Trump’s endorsement.” One candidate Trump has endorsed is former Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging incumbent Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in a GOP primary. But despite Trump’s endorsement, Montellaro observes, Perdue’s campaign is “struggling.”

“Kemp has significantly outraised Perdue, and has led him in public polling,” Montellaro observes. “A Fox News poll released last month had Kemp leading Perdue by 11 points among Republican primary voters, even with Trump being overwhelmingly popular among Georgia Republicans.”

Kemp, Montellaro notes, is “one of two incumbent Republican governors facing a Trump-endorsed primary challenge in May, with Idaho Gov. Brad Little also being primaried by the state’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin.”

“Little has not publicly drawn Trump’s ire as Kemp has,” Montellaro explains, “but the former president nevertheless backed McGeachin, an early supporter of his with ties to the far right — including a virtual appearance at the America First Political Action Conference in February, which was hosted by a White nationalist.”

The white nationalist Montellaro is referring to is Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier. Fuentes views his annual AFPAC event as a White nationalist alternative to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

“Trump has also endorsed in two open-seat May gubernatorial primaries,” Montellaro notes. “In Arkansas, the race showed the potential potency of his endorsement, when he backed his former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, shortly after she launched her bid. Sanders — who was being floated as a potential gubernatorial candidate while she was still working at the White House, including by Trump publicly — eventually cleared the field of prominent challengers in the state, including the sitting lieutenant governor and attorney general.”

Montellaro adds, “The second open race comes in Nebraska and pits Trump against outgoing incumbent Gov. Pete Ricketts — who is also the co-chair of the (Republican Governors Association). Trump threw his support behind Charles Herbster, a cattle-breeding executive and longtime ally who has feuded with the governor.”

In Ohio, conservative Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is facing GOP primary challenges from Trumpistas Joe Blyston and Jim Renacci (a former congressman). So far, Trump hasn’t endorsed either Blystone or Renacci, and polls are showing DeWine as the frontrunner.

“A recent Fox News poll had DeWine at 50%, with Blystone at 21% and Renacci at 18%,” Montellaro observes. “Renacci, in particular, has tried to lean into his Trump connections during the race.”

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