‘Trump is in the past’: Mounting losses show limits of power

WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) — Donald Trump opened May by elevating a lagging Senate candidate from Ohio to the Republican nomination,…

WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) — Donald Trump opened May by elevating an Ohio Senate candidate to the Republican nomination, seemingly cementing the former president’s kingmaker status ahead of another potential White House run. He is ending the month, however, stung by a series of defeats that suggest a diminishing stature.

Trump faced a series of setbacks in Tuesday’s primary election as voters rejected his efforts to unseat two of the main targets of retaliation: Georgia’s Republican governor and secretary of state, who both rebuffed extraordinary pressure from Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But the magnitude of the loss in the gubernatorial race (more than 50 percentage points) was especially surprising and raised questions about whether Republican voters are beginning to drift away from Trump.

Nearly seven years after the one-time reality star launched what seemed like an unlikely campaign for the White House, the “Make America Great Again” movement led by Trump is going nowhere. part. But voters are increasingly eloquent in saying that the party’s future is about more than Trump.

“I really like Trump, but Trump is in the past,” said David Butler of Woodstock, Georgia, who voted for Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday and said Trump endorsements had “no” impact on his way of thinking. to think.

The same thing happened with Will Parbhoo, a 22-year-old dental assistant who also voted for Kemp.

“I’m not really a Trumper,” he said after voting. “To begin with, I didn’t like it. With the whole election thing, I was like, ‘Dude, keep going.’”

What did Parbhoo like about the current governor? “Kemp is focused on Georgia,” he said.

Trump tried to downplay the losses of his favored candidates, saying on his social media platform Wednesday that he had a “very big and successful night of political endorsements” and insisting that some races were “not winnable.”

Still, the pattern of high-profile losses is hard to ignore.

After JD Vance jumped from third to first place following Trump’s endorsement in the latter stages of the Ohio Senate primary, the dynamic took a turn. Trump’s choice in the Nebraska primary for governor, Charles Herbster, lost his race after allegations surfaced that he had groped women.

In Idaho, a week later, the governor beat a Trump-backed challenger. In North Carolina, voters rejected Trump’s request to give a scandal-plagued congressman a second chance. And in Pennsylvania, a major Senate primary with famed Trump-backed heart surgeon Mehmet Oz remains too close to call.

But his biggest upset was in Georgia, a crucial battleground state, where former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump had pressured into running and helped clear the field, lost to Kemp. The governor was among Trump’s top targets after he refused to overturn the results of the 2020 White House election in his state.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who defied Trump’s call to “find” the votes to change the outcome two years ago — a call now under investigation — also won his party’s nomination. Attorney General Chris Carr and Insurance Commissioner John King, both opposed by Trump, also did well in their primaries.

In Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks, whose Senate endorsement Trump rescinded as he struggled to gain traction, made it to a runoff and won support after Trump fired him.

Trump has endorsed nearly 200 races, from governor to county commissioner, often inserting himself into contests that aren’t particularly competitive and helping bolster his winning record. Some of his work, even in multi-candidate races, has paid off.

Your early support helped football great Herschel Walker and Rep. Ted Budd navigate their respective nominations in the Georgia and North Carolina Senate primaries. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former press secretary, easily won the Republican nomination for governor in Arkansas. And even in Georgia, every candidate Trump backed in the open election has either won or is heading to the runoff.

Some allies say Trump’s endorsement count is a poor measure of his influence, even if Trump consistently promotes that record.

They argue that voters may support the former president and be eager for him to run again, but may not be sold on his picks, especially in races with governors like Kemp, who have a long history with voters. And even without Trump on the ballot, the party has morphed into Trump’s image, with candidates embracing his “America First” platform, mimicking his tactics and repeating his lies about a stolen election.

But with Trump out of office and relegated to posting on his own social media platform, other voices are beginning to fill the void. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the most-watched personality on cable television, has become a driving ideological force in the party. Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of the conspiracy who won her party’s nomination for re-election on Tuesday, have taken her place in Washington.

Meanwhile, Trump’s potential presidential rivals are waiting in the wings for 2024.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has distanced himself from Trump, met with Kemp in suburban Atlanta on Monday night, telling the crowd that “elections are about the future,” an implied swipe at his former boss.

Trump has also spawned a new generation of candidates who have channeled his “MAGA” brand, but who have done so regardless of his support and see themselves as his next iteration.

“MAGA doesn’t belong to him,” Kathy Barnette, the Pennsylvania Senate candidate whose late-stage rise surprised party members, said in an interview. “Trump coined the word. He is not the owner.”

While the left, he said, may see the “MAGA movement” as a “cult of Trump voters,” he said it goes far beyond one man. He argued that Trump had been successful in 2016 because he aligned with voters’ concerns and said out loud what people were already thinking, particularly on immigration. She said that she tried in her career to do the same.

“I think Trump still has an important voice,” he added, but “he needs to get better advisers and on top of that he needs to do better to remember why we sided with him. And it wasn’t because we aligned with his values. It was because he was aligning himself with our values. And I think he needs to remember that for his voice to stay relevant.”

Other Republicans complain that precious time and money have been wasted on an ego-driven revenge campaign for Trump, forcing incumbents to defend themselves in the primaries instead of focusing on the general election. They worry that Trump has elevated some candidates who may prove ineligible in the November general election and exacerbated divisions.

“There is no question that the unnecessary fighting with the extremes of the party, of the Trump grievance party, has made it more difficult for us to win in November,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate. who has been working to protect sitting governors.

Hogan, a Trump critic, said the races so far have been “a little mixed.”

“We are in the middle of a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, and frankly, the battle is not over yet,” he said. “I don’t think we can say exactly what the result is yet. And I think we still have many more primaries ahead of us.”

Others are more confident in saying that Trump’s power has waned over time.

“Trump’s endorsement is helpful, but it’s not something that alone can put anyone on top. And that means he is less powerful than he was when he was president and it seemed like a fait accompli when he endorsed it,” said longtime GOP strategist Mike DuHaime.

Still, he acknowledged that Trump “remains the most influential person in the party,” even if that influence has waned.

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Colvin reported from New York.

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