Trump’s GOP kingmaker status under threat in key August primaries
July-August are likely to mark former President Trump’s worst back-to-back months since he left office.
What’s happening: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is showing the most potential 2024 strength yet — leading or tied in state polling from New Hampshire, Michigan and Florida. The House Jan. 6 hearings have delivered more drama and revelations than expected.
- Trump’s favorite newspaper, the New York Post, editorialized Friday that Trump is “unworthy” to be president again. Another Rupert Murdoch paper, The Wall Street Journal, opined the same day that Trump “utterly failed” his Jan. 6 character test.
- There’s a bleak outlook for many of Trump’s candidates on the busy August primary slate.
Why it matters: Trump has a ceiling. Primary results so far show he’s getting the hardest of the hardcore — but making few inroads outside MAGA loyalists.
What we’re watching: Trump has lavished political capital on 10 allies in August primaries who promote election conspiracy theories — while seeking revenge on several House Republicans who voted for his impeachment.
- Polls show Trump’s No. 1 target, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee hearings, poised to lose. But Trump’s MAGA-aligned activists in other races are struggling.
- So far in ’22, Trump’s endorsement record is mixed in competitive gubernatorial and congressional primaries — far from the Midas touch in primaries he showcased as president.
Zoom in: The Arizona governor’s race is shaping up as the biggest test of whether the party establishment can win a fight against Trump.
- Former Vice President Mike Pence, snubbing his former boss, endorsed real estate developer Karrin Taylor Robson in the Arizona governor’s primary.
- Pence held a rally for her Friday, the same day as Trump’s Arizona rally with another Republican challenger, former TV news anchor Kari Lake — one of the most outspoken amplifiers of Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
Only two Trump-endorsed candidates in contested primaries are clear favorites.
- In Wyoming, a July poll found attorney Harriet Hageman leading Cheney by 22 points (52%-30%).
- For U.S. Senate in Arizona, venture capitalist Blake Masters is ahead in polls.
A number of Trump’s candidates are on the defensive everywhere else.
- Alaska’s ranked-choice voting system is making it difficult for Trump-endorsed Sarah Palin, running for Alaska’s vacant House seat, to get traction.
- Reps. Jamie Herrera-Beutler and Dan Newhouse benefit from Washington state’s all-party primary system, in which Democrats could end up boosting the fortunes of the two anti-Trump Republicans.
Reality check: Trump drew big crowds in Arizona on Friday and Florida on Saturday.
The bottom line: If Trump continues to struggle, he could find himself with a middling record in the most consequential primary races — just as he wants to project strength for 2024.