May’s GOP primaries will seriously test Trump’s ‘clout’ in his party: report

May’s GOP primaries will seriously test Trump’s ‘clout’ in his party: report

This Tuesday, May 3, Republican primary voters will decide whether they want to nominate “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance or someone else in Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate race. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Vance, and that GOP primary — journalist David Siders stresses in an article published by Politico on May 2 — will be among the ones that tests how much “clout” Trump has in his party in 2022.

“A Vance victory would remind his party that Trump is still king, but the acclaim will be fleeting,” Sider explains. “The rest of May looks nowhere near as good for the former president, who has expended his political capital in a series of contests that are already laying bare the limits of his post-presidential influence on the GOP.”

Siders continues, “In a four-week stretch of primaries running from Nebraska and West Virginia to Idaho, Pennsylvania and Georgia, Trump-endorsed candidates are slogging through difficult races where the former president’s blessing hasn’t proved to be the rocket fuel some expected. In a few cases, his preferred candidates are running far behind.”

Trump has been an incredibly popularizing figure. His hardcore supporters on the far right still adore him. But as Siders points out, Trump lost the popular vote in both 2016 and 2020.

“His record in these contests is no small matter given his own past performance,” Siders explains. “In his only two appearances on a ballot, he lost the popular vote twice. On his watch as president, the GOP lost the House, Senate and the White House. To continue in his role as his party’s apex politician — and to press his claim on the 2024 Republican nomination — Trump can’t afford a string of reminders that his defeats are starting to stack up, or that the party base is, on even limited occasions, willing to buck him.”

According to GOP strategist John Thomas, a lot is riding on how well the primary candidates that Trump has endorsed perform in May. If those candidates don’t perform well, Thomas observed, it will “be a blow to his perceived power.”

Thomas told Politico, “He doesn’t single-handedly control the electorate unless he’s on the ballot. Is he still a very, very popular figure in the Republican Party? Absolutely, undeniably. But does he have the influence and weight in Republican primaries to be the decisive kingmaker?.... Not definitively.”

Other Republican primary candidates Trump has endorsed range from Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race to Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race.

“In North Carolina, Trump’s endorsed Senate candidate, Rep. Ted Budd, has a comfortable lead,” Siders observes. “So does Herschel Walker, Trump’s favored Senate candidate in Georgia. But the Senate races in Ohio and Pennsylvania aren’t sure bets, and it will be a grind for Trump beyond that.”

Siders continues, “In (the) Nebraska (gubernatorial race), Charles Herbster, with whom Trump campaigned on (May 1), is in a three-way toss-up after being accused of sexually assaulting eight women. The Trump-endorsed candidate in a high-profile House race in West Virginia is teetering in a close race. In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little is polling more than 30 percentage points ahead of his Trump-endorsed primary opponent, while in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp — one of Trump’s most well-worn punching bags — may not only beat Trump’s endorsed candidate, former Sen. David Perdue, but do so by a wide enough margin to avoid a runoff.”

Republican pollster Whit Ayers argues that the Georgia gubernatorial primary is especially important.

Ayers told Politico, “Georgia’s the big one. Trump took on an incumbent Republican governor and recruited a recent incumbent Republican senator to challenge him. That is the biggest of the challenges where Trump has tried to force his will…. If he’s able to take out an incumbent Republican governor, that’s a huge statement of his influence. But if he’s unable to take out an incumbent Republican governor with a recent incumbent senator, it’s a huge statement of his lack of influence on Republican voters.”

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