WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) — Donald Trump opened May by raising a late Senate candidate in Ohio to the Republican nomination, seemingly cementing the former president’s kingmaker status ahead of another possible run for the White House. He ends the month, however, spiking from a losing streak which suggest a decreasing stature.
Trump has faced a series of setbacks in Tuesday’s primary election as voters rejected his efforts to overthrow two top retaliatory targets: the Republican governor of Georgia and the secretary of state, who both pushed back against Trump’s extraordinary push to overturn the election results. 2020 presidential election. But the magnitude of the gubernatorial defeat – more than 50 percentage points – was particularly stunning and raised questions about whether Republican voters are beginning to abandon Trump.
Nearly seven years after the former reality TV star launched what seemed like an unlikely campaign for the White House, the Trump-led “Make America Great Again” movement is going nowhere. But voters are increasingly saying the party’s future doesn’t end with Trump.
“I really like Trump, but Trump is in the past,” said David Butler of Woodstock, Georgia, who voted for Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday and said Trump’s endorsements had “no ‘impact’.” whatever” on his thought.
So did Will Parbhoo, a 22-year-old dental assistant who also voted for Kemp.
“I’m not really a Trumper,” he said after casting his vote. “I didn’t like him at first. With all the election stuff, I was like, ‘Man, move on.
One thing Parbhoo liked about the current governor? “Kemp is focused on Georgia,” he said.
Trump has sought to play down the losses of his favorite candidates, saying on his social media platform on Wednesday that he hosted a “very important and successful evening of political endorsements” and insisting that some races “were not possible to win”.
Still, the pattern of high-profile losses is hard to ignore.
After JD Vance jumped from third to first after Trump’s late endorsement in the Ohio Senate primary, the momentum took a turn. Trump’s pick in the Nebraska primary for Governor Charles Herbster has lost his race after allegations surfaced that he had groped women.
In Idaho a week later, the governor defeated a Trump-backed challenger. In North Carolina, voters rejected Trump’s call to give scandal-ridden congressman a second chance. And in Pennsylvania, a marquee Senate primary featuring famed Trump-endorsed heart surgeon Mehmet Oz remains too close to call.
But his biggest upset came in crucial swing state Georgia, where former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump had lobbied to run and helped clear the ground, lost to Kemp. The governor was among Trump’s top targets after he refused to overturn the results of the 2020 White House election in his state.
Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who defied Trump’s call to ‘find’ the votes to change the outcome two years ago – a call that is currently under investigation – also won his party’s nomination. Attorney General Chris Carr and Insurance Commissioner John King – both opposed by Trump – also passed their primaries.
In Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks, whose Senate endorsement by Trump was rescinded as he struggled to gain groundmade a tricklehaving gained support after Trump dropped him.
Trump has endorsed in nearly 200 races, from governor to county commissioner, often slotting into contests that aren’t particularly competitive and helping to bolster his tally of wins. Some of his hard work, even in multi-candidate races, has paid off.
His early support helped football great Herschel Walker and Rep. Ted Budd are navigating their respective Senate primary nominations in Georgia and North Carolina. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former press secretary, easily won the GOP nomination for governor of Arkansas. And even in Georgia, all of the Trump-endorsed candidates in open races have won or will head to runoffs.
Some allies say Trump’s approval tally is a poor measure of his influence, even though Trump consistently promotes that record.
They argue that voters may support the former president and be eager for him to run again, but may not be convinced by his picks, especially in races with governors such as Kemp who have a long history with the governors. voters. And even without Trump on the ballot, the party has been transformed in Trump’s image, with candidates embracing his “America First” platform, emulating his tactics and parroting his lies about a stolen election.
But with Trump removed from office and relegated to posting on his own social media platform, other voices are beginning to fill the void. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the most-watched personality on cable television, became a driving ideological force in the party. Republicans such as conspiracy Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greenewho won his party’s re-election nomination on Tuesday, resumed his role in Washington.
Meanwhile, Trump’s potential presidential rivals wait in the wings for 2024.
Former Vice President Mike Pencewho has distanced himself from Trump, rallied behind Kemp in suburban Atlanta on Monday night and told the crowd that “elections are about the future” – an implied jab at his former boss.
Trump has also spawned a new generation of candidates who have channeled his “MAGA” brand, but have done so regardless of his support and see themselves as his next iteration.
“MAGA doesn’t belong to him,” said Kathy Barnette, the Pennsylvania Senate candidate whose late push stunned party insiders, in an interview. “Trump coined the word. He doesn’t own it. »
While the left, she said, may see the “MAGA movement” as a “Trump voter cult,” she said it goes far beyond one man. She argued that Trump was successful in 2016 because he aligned himself with voter concerns and spoke out loud what people already thought, particularly on immigration. She said she tried in her race to do the same.
“I believe Trump still has an important voice,” she added, but “he needs better advisers, and on top of that he needs to do better himself to remember why we aligned with him. him. And it wasn’t because we aligned with his values. It was because he aligned with our values. And I think he has to remember that to keep his voice relevant.
Other Republicans complain that precious time and money have been wasted on an ego-driven revenge campaign for Trump, forcing the incumbents to defend themselves in the primaries rather than focus on the general election. They fear Trump has elevated some candidates who may prove ineligible in the November general election and has deepened divisions.
“There is no doubt that unnecessary fights with the extremes of the party, of Trump’s grievance party, made it harder for us to win in November,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential presidential candidate. of the 2024 GOP who worked to protect incumbent governors.
Hogan, a Trump critic, said the races so far have “been a bit mixed.”
“We are in the midst of a battle for the soul of the Republican Party and frankly, the battle is not over yet,” he said. “I don’t think we can say exactly what the outcome is yet. And I think we still have a lot of primaries to go.
Others are more confident saying that Trump’s power has diminished over time.
“Trump’s endorsement is helpful, but it’s not something that in itself can put anyone above it. And that means he’s less powerful than he was when he was president and it seemed like a done deal when he endorsed,” said Mike DuHaime, a longtime GOP strategist.
Still, he acknowledged that Trump is “still the most influential person in the party,” even if that influence has waned.
Colvin reported from New York.