High-profile candidates endorsed by Trump lost their primaries, showing the limits of his power over the party

·3 min read
Trump, Dr Oz
The Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz with former President Donald Trump on May 6 in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
  • Tuesday's GOP primaries were major tests of former President Donald Trump's endorsement power.

  • On paper, Trump came out the winner, with most of the 26 candidates he endorsed victorious.

  • But many were running unopposed, and some of his high-profile allies were defeated.

Former President Donald Trump has wielded the power of his endorsement in his bid to maintain control over the GOP, and one of the first serious tests of its power came in the Republican primaries Tuesday.

The results were mixed, but several high-profile Trump allies slumped to defeat.

Most of the 26 Trump-backed candidates on the ballot Tuesday were running in safe seats. That meant on paper, the results validated the former president's endorsement power.

But in other competitive races, the results were less positive for Trump.

Video: Trump voters explain why they want him back

In North Carolina, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who has built his political career on being one of Trump's most ardent congressional supporters, lost his primary. Cawthorn has been mired in controversy in recent weeks. After claiming he was invited to drug-fueled orgies by members of Congress, a series of leaks about his personal and political life have eroded support for him.

In Idaho, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, whom Trump backed, was defeated in her bid to unseat Gov. Brad Little. McGeachin has backed Trump's bogus election-fraud claims and built her political reputation on defying measures to control the coronavirus, over which she clashed with Little.

In Pennsylvania, the Trump-endorsed TV star Mehmet Oz, aka Dr. Oz, is locked in a dead heat with David McCormick in a race shaken up by a late surge from the political newcomer Kathy Barnette. Oz has staked his campaign on his closeness to Trump.

There were also notable successes for Trump-backed candidates Tuesday.

Also in Pennsylvania, the Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a backer of Trump's baseless claims that victory was stolen from him in the 2020 presidential election, won his primary. Politico reported that GOP critics feared Mastriano's views could be too extreme for many voters, and he faces a tough battle against Josh Shapiro, his Democratic opponent.

In North Carolina, the Trump-endorsed candidate Ted Budd won the US Senate primary and will face Cheri Beasley, the first Black woman to serve as the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, in what is expected to be a competitive race.

In March, Insider reported that candidates seeking election in the midterms were clamoring for the former president's endorsement and negotiating a series of challenges to secure it. Despite leaving office tainted by scandal in the wake of the January 6, 2021, insurrection, Trump is idolized by the GOP base.

But Republican critics have said Trump's fixation on candidates who back his election-fraud claims may damage them in the midterms and alienate moderate supporters.

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