The MAGA-fication of the GOP is complete
A version of this story appears in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
The final 2022 primary elections, conducted Tuesday, saw more clear victories for the “Make America Great Again” wing of the GOP.
The more moderate Republican running for US Senate in New Hampshire, state Senate President Chuck Morse, conceded defeat Wednesday to the 2020 election-denying retired US Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc.
In fact, it was a sweep of House and Senate races in New Hampshire for the more Trump-aligned candidates.
The Senate race was yet another case of the candidate preferred by the Republican establishment in Washington, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, falling to a candidate who pushes conspiracy theories and was aligned with former President Donald Trump. It wasn’t enough that a super PAC aligned with McConnell had poured more than $4 million into the race to pump up Morse.
In this particular case, it should also be noted that Democrats helped Bolduc along by spending millions to run ads attacking Morse and tying him to McConnell.
Democrats’ cynical strategy of helping the Trumpier GOP candidates in multiple states and races is a dangerous gamble that could either help them keep control of the Senate or could put more election deniers in office, depending on what happens in November. It also undercuts their message of trying to protect democracy.
As CNN’s political team reported in takeaways from the New Hampshire primary, “Bolduc joins a list of candidates national Republicans worry won’t be able to appeal to the broader November electorate.” Read more takeaways.
Bolduc is the kind of candidate who has talked about abolishing the FBI and repealing the 17th Amendment, which requires states to directly elect their senators.
While Trump didn’t technically endorse Bolduc and he ran unsuccessful primary campaigns in the past, he joins Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Arizona’s Blake Masters, Pennsylvania’s Dr. Mehmet Oz and Ohio’s J.D. Vance in the camp of Trump-endorsed, first-time candidates in danger of losing seats Republican leaders must win to get control of the Senate.
There was more evidence of MAGA-fication in a primary for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, which pitted two former Trump administration aides against each other.
The one who expressed confidence in elections lost.
From CNN’s report:
Where (Matt) Mowers had “confidence in New Hampshire elections,” (Karoline) Leavitt said she believed “the 2020 election was undoubtedly stolen from President Trump.” Where Mowers suggested hearings to determine whether President Joe Biden should be impeached, Leavitt unequivocally said the President should be impeached. And where Mowers said he “supports science” when asked about the newly rolled out coronavirus vaccine, Leavitt said it was “none of your business.”
CNN’s Daniel Dale writes Wednesday that more than half of Republican Senate candidates have “rejected, cast doubt upon or tried to overturn the 2020 election results.”
Nineteen of the GOP primary winners have questioned the 2020 results, according to Dale’s list, which includes five incumbent senators and 11 other candidates who could feasibly win in November.
There’s an even longer list of candidates for governor – at least 22 – and secretary of state – at least 11 – who have espoused similar theories and will be in a position to influence the way elections are carried out in their states if they win in November.
On the other hand, most of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump have been purged by GOP primary voters or had announced plans for retirement.
Most notably, Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who has helped lead the House investigation into the January 6, 2021, insurrection, lost her primary in August.
Just two of the 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump, Reps. David Valadao of California and Dan Newhouse of Washington state, will be on the ballot in November. So will Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the only Republican senator who voted for impeachment and is up for reelection this year.
CNN’s Adam Wollner looked at how these few Republicans have survived and notes Murkowski is something of a political anomaly. She won reelection in 2010 with a write-in campaign after losing that GOP primary, which is the political equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
But more importantly, he identified the one thing that ties the three surviving impeachment Republicans together:
“Murkowski, Newhouse and Valadao did not face a traditional Republican primary,” Wollner wrote in August. “Instead, they participated in contests where all candidates, regardless of party, appeared on the same ballot. In California and Washington, the top two finishers move on to the general election, while the top four advance in Alaska.” Read more of Wollner’s analysis.
The Brookings Institution did a more holistic review of primary candidates from both parties and found that Republicans have embraced Trump and his brand of conservatism far more completely than Democrats have embraced their most progressive ideas.
Trump endorsed less than 13% of GOP candidates, but more than 96% of those he endorsed won their primaries.
Most Republican candidates – nearly 60% in the Brookings review – put no mention of Trump or his MAGA and America First mantras on their website. But only 30% of those candidates who didn’t push Trumpism won.
Brookings compared those figures with the percentage of Democrats who embraced the left wing of the party. Most – 72% of Democratic candidates – had no endorsement from left-wing groups and no mention of left-wing issues – anything from Medicare for all to defund the police – on their website. Nearly half of these won their primaries.
A small minority of Democrats, just about 6%, were endorsed by extremely progressive leaders like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or groups that share his priorities. Half of them won their primaries.
Brookings’ conclusion: “On the Republican side, candidates have embraced Trump – even when he has not embraced them – and done very well in the primaries because of it. On the Democratic side, the impact of Bernie Sanders’ revolution has been smaller, more muted, and less successful in primaries.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect which candidates former President Donald Trump has endorsed.