Trump still has influence in the GOP as MAGA candidates win in key primaries

Election results in a series of key primaries on Tuesday night underscored former President Donald Trump’s continued influence in the Republican Party, despite signals that his status as the de facto leader may be eroding.

In Arizona, multiple candidates posing as true Trump loyalists — who embraced his electoral conspiracy theories and Make America Great Again agenda — have been winning up-and-down in races that were still too close as of Wednesday were morning.

And in Michigan, a Republican House incumbent lost Trump’s contempt by voting to impeach him after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot lost his primary to a Trump-backed challenger.

Trump was driving a victory lap on social media early Wednesday, suggesting the results showed the power of his support as a determining factor in every race he weighed in. In fact, some of those candidates were already front runners when they received Trump’s endorsement — and in a Missouri GOP primary, Trump hedged his bet by endorsing “Eric” in a race in which multiple competitors shared that first name.

In Washington, meanwhile, the results were too early to call Wednesday morning’s races involving two other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump with incitement to the Jan. 6 riot.

However, the election results show how currying Trump’s favor and mimicking his brand of far-right populism – including by parroting his doubts about the integrity of elections – has become a common tactic among candidates seeking primary victories, by appealing to Trump’s base.

The Arizona results, in particular, brought numerous victories for supporters of Trump’s false claim that his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden was “rigged” through widespread fraud.

Among those top winners is Republican Secretary of State Mark Finchem, who denies Biden’s victory and attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 rally, which took place just before the Capitol riot. If he wins the general, Finchem will become the state’s chief electoral officer.

Five other Republican candidates, dubbed draft-waivers, have won the state primaries to serve as secretary of state, according to bipartisan election watchdog States United Action.

Also in Arizona, Trump-backed Senate candidate Blake Masters won the Republican primary and propelled him to the general election against incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.

And Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who testified in a public hearing into the Jan. 6 Capitol riots about how Trump and his allies pressured him to contest the 2020 election results, lost his lead bid for a seat in the Senate.

Trump had backed Bowers’ Republican opponent, former Senator David Farnsworth, for the seat. In the endorsement, Trump described Bowers as “weak and pathetic [Republican In Name Only] who blocked election integrity.”

Meanwhile, the winner of Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial primary was too close to call Wednesday morning, NBC News’ tally of the race reveals. But Kari Lake, the Trump-backed former local news anchor who has repeatedly claimed the 2020 race was stolen, appeared to be leading her next GOP challenger, Karrin Taylor Robson, who is backed by former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump has also pushed for the ouster of the 10th House Republicans who voted to impeach him after the riot, and much of the Republican Party has followed suit. Four of those Republicans who support impeachment—Representatives Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, and Fred Upton of Michigan—will retire at the end of their current terms.

Another, Rep. Tom Rice, RS.C., lost his feature race in June. David Valadao, R-Calif., survived his first challenge.

But Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., lost his primary Tuesday after enduring attacks from both Trump and Democrats, who reportedly backed his far-right opponent John Gibbs.

The Democratic campaign committee cut an ad touting Gibbs’ ties to Trump, a move that drew accusations from Meijer’s campaign and others that the Democrats were interfering in the race to target a potentially weaker candidate for the general election strengthen.

“I am disgusted that hard-earned money intended to support Democrats is being used to promote Trump-backed candidates,” said US Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn.

Arizona Democrats reportedly attempted a similar move in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, a tactic seen as an attempt to undermine Robson and aid far-right Lake.

“This has been a hard-fought primary campaign and I want to thank everyone in West Michigan for their support,” Meijer said in a concession statement sent out early Wednesday morning.

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/08/03/trump-still-holds-sway-in-gop-as-maga-candidates-win-in-key-primary-races.html Trump still has influence in the GOP as MAGA candidates win in key primaries

Joshua Buckhalter

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