A historically bad night for Trump’s candidates

The Republican Party has become defined by Donald Trump more than any set of principles or policies. And that has rendered Trump’s endorsement the gold seal of approval in Republican primaries. Trump’s strong endorsement record is inflated by his having backed gobs of candidates in uncompetitive and even uncontested races, but there is no question it’s a huge leg up in competitive primaries.

That said, Tuesday’s primaries were a historically bad one for Trump’s candidates.

Three lost, including two by wide margins.

In South Carolina, 2016 Republican National Convention speaker and pro-Trump pastor Mark Burns narrowly lost a primary runoff to nurse practitioner Sheri Biggs.

In Colorado, state Republican Party chairman Dave Williams lost by more than 30 points to conservative activist Jeff Crank.

And perhaps most stinging for Trump, his favored candidate in Utah to replace retiring Trump-antagonist Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs — lost to more-moderate Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah). Staggs currently trails by more than 20 points.

The three defeats for Trump-backed candidates in one night is unprecedented, according to Ballotpedia’s extensive compilation of Trump endorsees.

Some other key data points, via Ballotpedia:

  • Before Tuesday, only eight Trump-backed candidates had lost primaries for the House or Senate since 2018. And none had lost in 2024. If you include governor’s races, 12 Trump-backed candidates have lost primaries.
  • Eight of those 12 primary losses did come in 2022, as the Republican Party flirted with charting a new course after Trump’s 2020 loss and the Jan. 6 insurrection. They included three losses in gubernatorial primaries and three losses in Georgia, which bucked Trump in the primaries more than any other state did.
  • The three 2022 losses in Georgia were spaced out between the primary and a later primary runoff, meaning the trio of losses Trump experienced Tuesday has never happened before.
  • The Tuesday losses are more than occurred in all of 2018 or 2020.

We probably shouldn’t read too much into this. The fact that we hadn’t even seen one Trump-backed candidate lose this cycle before Tuesday would suggest his endorsement remains valuable. And the three Tuesday races presented an almost perfect storm of peril.

Utah is the red state that has demonstrated the most willingness to buck Trump.

Williams is an extremely divisive figure in Colorado. He recently sent an email titled “God hates Pride,” which has led to calls for his ouster as state party chairman. (The state party he runs also urged people in a social media post to burn Pride flags.) During a failed campaign in 2022, he attempted to get listed on the ballot as “Dave ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Williams.” He was denied, and Williams later lost to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) by double digits.

And Burns is now a three-time loser, having lost congressional primaries in 2018, 2022 and Tuesday. (In the first race — a crowded open primary — he garnered less than 3 percent of the vote.)

But Trump did decide to back these candidates, for one reason or another. He did so despite Burns’s and Williams’s track records and despite Staggs’s relatively meager campaign apparatus. And Trump’s backing wasn’t enough to make either Williams or Staggs even competitive.

Trump’s campaign has not responded to a request for comment. Other Trump-backed candidates did win contested congressional primaries Tuesday, including Colorado state Rep. Gabe Evans (R) and multiple incumbents. And Trump-backed candidate John McGuire appears likely to unseat Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) in a race from last week that remains too close to call.

Trump on Tuesday night posted a number of images to his Truth Social account playing up when his candidates did win. Most of them faced no actual primary opposition.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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