Trump guns down his first impeachment victim: 5 takeaways from a big primary night

Impeachment is a killer

If we’ve learned anything from this year’s primaries, it’s that Trump is not invincible. Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger both beat Trump-endorsed challengers in Georgia. A handful of House Republicans who voted to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill survived last week’s primaries. And on Tuesday in South Carolina, Rep. Nancy Mace, despite her criticism of the former president, edged out her Trump-backed challenger.

But if there is a limit to how harshly a Republican can run past Trump, the other closely watched home race in South Carolina seemed to lay it bare. Tom Rice, the representative who voted to impeach Trump and never backed down from his critics, lost his primary to Trump-endorsed state representative Russell Fry.

About 17 months after Rice voted to impeach, he won about a quarter of the vote in the Coastal District he has represented for a decade. Rice said he was at peace with his vote to impeach and hoped to inspire others not to pander to Trump, but he may not have achieved his goal.

For other House candidates who voted to impeach Trump — and who did not retire — the outcome is ominous. Rice and her family suffered through personal turmoil, death threats and hate mail, only to suffer brutal loss to a Trump-backed foe. Few would follow his path.

But Rice was perhaps worse off than many others who chose to impeach. Representatives Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), David Valadao (R-California) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) all have somewhat moderate districts where Democrats and independents could support their decision. Herrera Beutler and Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) also have cross-party primaries that could provide some cushion.

Rice faced an angry GOP base with little buffer.

“He voted for impeachment, and Mace didn’t,” said a South Carolina Republican familiar with the Mace and Rice campaigns.

Trump is the establishment now

Adam Laxalt had the backing of Trump and a host of prominent national GOP leaders and groups, and he could well run to represent Nevada in the Senate. But regardless of the final tally, it wasn’t expected to be so difficult for a former state attorney general with a political pedigree.

Sam Brown, the wounded Afghan veteran and anti-establishment outsider, won the Nevada Republican Party’s endorsement this spring, and Laxalt and his allies were forced to scramble. In the past three weeks alone, the Club for Growth has spent about $750,000 on TV ads attacking Brown in an effort to build support for Laxalt among Republicans. Laxalt brought Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to campaign with him in Nevada, and he received support from Trump last week in the form of a tele-town hall.

And for all of Laxalt’s big-name national support, he and Brown raised similar amounts throughout the primary, with Brown having success with small donors.

While Trump remains hugely popular with the Nevada GOP — about 89% of Republican voters view him favorably, according to Nevada’s latest independent poll — he still isn’t clearing most GOP primary fields in 2022.

Launch preview of Trump-Biden in Maine

Few states will offer better insight into a potential Joe Biden-Donald Trump rematch in 2024 than the gubernatorial race that unfolded Tuesday in Maine.

Paul LePage, the former Republican Governor returning to challenge Democratic Governor Janet Mills, could hardly be more like Trump – the kind of brash, vulgar-prone politician who told former President Barack Obama to “go to the devil” and blamed the state. heroin outbreak on drug dealers with names like “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” who, LePage said, come to Maine and return home after impregnating a “young white girl.”

He boasted of being “Donald Trump before Donald Trump”.

And then there’s Mills, who is… not that.

“LePage, I’m not even sure of the right word for his attitude towards the government. Flamboyant, perhaps? said David Farmer, a Democratic political operative who served as deputy chief of staff to LePage’s predecessor, Gov. John Baldacci. “A lot of vitriol. Lots of headlines. And Mills ruled without drama, like Biden in a sense.

He said: “Just like at the national level, we are seeing these forces clash again.”

Maine’s election won’t draw a perfect line until 2024. Mills has a better public approval rating than Biden. It is only one state. But the cost of living and inflation weigh just as heavily on Mainers as they are the nation’s voters. And with the primary settled, we already see how Republicans will run against an incumbent chief executive.

LePage hammers Mills — like Trump is Biden — on the state of the economy. And in a sign that Republicans are unlikely to give up on the culture wars anytime soon, the GOP is running ads criticizing Mills for a video that appeared on the state Department of Education’s website of a teacher explaining the transgender identity to kindergarten children.

Democrats take a hit in Texas

House Republicans made huge strides in their effort to turn South Texas red, capturing a heavily Latino — and historically Democratic — neighborhood on Tuesday night. Republican Mayra Flores will become the first Republican to represent her South Texas district in modern history.

The Democrats’ nightmare here is twofold. They lost a crucial seat in their slim majority in the House, straining their ability to pass legislation for the rest of the year. But Republicans have also gained crucial momentum in an area they are seriously targeting in the fall. South Texas has taken a sharp turn to the right in 2020, buoyed by Trump’s popularity in the region. This race shows that it was not a fluke. Even though Biden carried this district by 4 points in 2020, Flores built a comfortable advantage over Democrat Dan Sanchez.

The special election, prompted by the resignation of Democrat Filemon Vela, was held under former congressional district lines. The new boundaries take effect in the fall, which will turn the district into the one Biden would have won by 16 points. But the power of the incumbent and the cachet of his upset will give Flores a chance to hold onto it. And Republicans now feel even more confident they can flip two more seats held by Democrats in the Rio Grande Valley that will be even more competitive.

The disappearance of Dean Heller

Tuesday could have marked the start of former Sen. Dean Heller’s comeback campaign.

Instead, Heller was a distant second in the Republican primary for governor of Nevada. With more than a third of the expected vote, Heller trailed not only former Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who was leading, but two other contenders, by single digits.

If the results hold, it’s hard to see how Heller will be able to overcome this loss and rebuild his image with Nevada voters if he wishes to run again.

Heller, who delivered newspapers to the governor’s mansion while growing up in Carson City, had wanted to be governor for decades. He first considered bidding for the job in 1998 and briefly thought about running in 2018 until it became clear that then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt was planning to run.

Heller gained a reputation early in his political career for being a maverick who would not toe the party line. He ran for the first time for state assembly as a 30-year-old pro-abortion Republican Mormon.

But during his 2018 Senate re-election campaign, Heller was fending off attacks from Democrats and Republicans who accused him of flip-flopping on key issues — namely, whether to repeal and replace the Care Act. affordable and his support for President Donald Trump, whom he had said he was “99% against” just two years earlier. Despite Trump’s endorsement — which some of his supporters considered lukewarm at best — Heller lost his re-election bid by 5 percentage points.

Instead of returning to his maverick roots this cycle, however, Heller leaned heavily to the right, calling President Joe Biden an “illegitimate” president and calling on the state to harbor the “worst election laws in the land.” Lombardo, meanwhile, acknowledged that Biden was legitimately elected.

And what did Heller get for his efforts? Trump has always endorsed Lombardo, and barring a dramatic turnaround in the vote count on Wednesday, Heller’s political career is virtually dead.

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Post expires at 6:15pm on Monday July 4th, 2022