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Election 2022: Trump’s influence on the GOP faces new tests

Former President Donald Trump faces the toughest test yet of his ability to mold a new generation of Republicans on Tuesday as GOP primary voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina decide to rally around his sorted picks. on the cusp for critical U.S. Senate seats.

As this year’s midterm primary season enters its busiest time with races also taking place in Kentucky, Oregon and Idaho, Trump is poised for several easy wins. In North Carolina, U.S. Representative Ted Budd is expected to beat a group of GOP rivals, including a former governor. And in Pennsylvania’s GOP race for governor, far-right nominee Doug Mastriano was already in the lead before Trump backed him over the weekend.

But Trump’s preferred Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz, has divided conservatives who are generally in tune with Trump. Some are wary of the ideological leanings of the famous heart surgeon who rose to prominence as a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show but was attacked by millions of dollars worth of TV ads from another rival, the former hedge fund CEO David McCormick. It benefited Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator who received little attention for most of the campaign before resonating in the home stretch with a fierce message opposing abortion under all circumstances. .

Trump, who has held campaign-style rallies with Oz, insists he is the best candidate to keep the Senate seat in Republican hands come fall. Given his level of involvement in the race – including a virtual event on behalf of Oz on Monday night – a loss would be a notable setback for the former president, who is wielding endorsements as a way to prove his dominance over the GOP ahead of a potential 2024 presidential race.

Democrats, meanwhile, have their own high-profile primaries. In Pennsylvania, progressive Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman led the Senate race but was forced out of the campaign trail by a stroke. Fetterman, 52, remains hospitalized, although he said he is expected to make a full recovery.

In North Carolina, Cheri Beasley is the clear favorite in her primary of 11 candidates for the Democratic Senate nomination. If she wins in November, Beasley would be the state’s first black female senator — and only the third African-American woman ever elected to the chamber.

Tuesday’s contests could ultimately determine how competitive the general election will be this fall, when control of Congress, governor’s mansions and key electoral positions will be up for grabs. That’s especially true on the perennial political battleground of Pennsylvania, where some Republicans already fear Mastriano is too extreme to woo the moderates who are often decisive in general elections.

“There’s definitely some trepidation in the major factions of the party,” said Pennsylvania Republican strategist Vince Galko. “Especially those in the suburbs.”

A victory for Barnette could potentially give Democrats a seat in the Senate, making the GOP’s effort to retake the chamber much more difficult.

More fundamentally, Tuesday’s primaries could test voters’ commitment to democratic principles. Barnette runs even further to the right than Oz and participated in the January 2021 rally that turned into an insurrection at the US Capitol.

Then there’s Mastriano, who was also outside the Capitol during the mob attack and who would appoint Pennsylvania’s election chief if he becomes governor. He has pledged to take the extraordinary step of requiring voters to “re-register” to vote — even though doing so is prohibited by state voter registration law and likely violates important protections under federal law. , and perhaps state.

“We’re going to start all over again,” said Mastriano, who has barred reporters from his campaign events, during a recent debate. He made Trump’s lies about the widespread voter fraud that cost him the presidency a centerpiece of his campaign – and was even subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the Capitol riot following his efforts to name a slate of alternate Electoral College voters in favor of Trump.

Trump’s safest bet on Tuesday may be Budd, who overcame a slow start to emerge from 14 Republican primary candidates, including former Gov. Pat McCroy, as the frontrunner in North Carolina’s Republican Senate primary.

“Trump is the biggest factor,” said David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College in the state capital of Raleigh, who also noted that another conservative group, the Anti-Tax Club for growth, paid for the pro-Budd publicity. . “Trump’s endorsement has turned the tide for him.”

While much of the attention during the opening phase of the primary season has focused on Trump’s grip on the GOP, the contests also serve as a referendum on Biden’s leadership of the Democratic Party. In the president’s home state of Pennsylvania, U.S. Representative Conor Lamb, a moderate in Biden’s mold, is at risk of being beaten by Fetterman.

Known for his towering 6-foot-8 stature and tattoos, and for championing causes like universal health care, Fetterman has appealed to many Democrats with an outward image — and that might hold despite his health scare .

Another race testing Biden’s national appeal with Democratic primary voters crosses the country in Oregon. It was there that the president used his first endorsement of the midterm season to back incumbent Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader against progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner.

But Trump’s influence over the GOP primaries extends much further.

In Idaho, Trump-backed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Brad Little. McGeachin issued executive orders banning mask mandates during the height of the pandemic when Little was out of state.

The former president’s backing could also tip U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s race to retain her North Carolina seat despite recent mistakes and political novice Bo Hines’ efforts to win the House nomination for a seat representing a district covering parts of Raleigh and points south.

Tuesday even features a Kentucky lawmaker seeking re-election who benefited from a Trump reversal. The former president is now praising Republican U.S. Representative Thomas Massie as a ‘top-notch defender of the Constitution’ – just two years after he suggested the Republican should be removed from the GOP for opposing 2 trillion dollars in COVID-19 relief funding.

The Independent Gt

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