It has been a year and a half since former President Trump left the White House, but the results from the latest round of primaries proves that his immense grip over the Republican Party remains firm.
While the biggest headline from Tuesday’s primaries in five states was the resounding victory in Kansas for abortion rights activists – in the first ballot box test of legalized abortion since the blockbuster June decision by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling – candidates backed by Trump came out on top in high-profile contests that grabbed plenty of national attention.
"Fantastic night in Michigan! Tudor Dixon will be a great Governor," the former president exclaimed on Truth Social, the social media platform founded by one of his companies.
Dixon, a conservative commentator and former online news host, won Michigan’s GOP gubernatorial primary by double digits over her rivals and will face off in November against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the key Midwestern battleground state.
Trump praised Dixon in April at a rally he headlined in Michigan, but he held off on endorsing the candidate until Friday, backing her after a new round of public opinion polls indicated her growing lead in the Republican nomination contest. The former president also held a tele-rally on Dixon's behalf the eve of the primary.
Meddling in the race by the Democratic Governors Association appeared unsucessful. The group, which supports Democratic incumbents and candidates in gubernatorial races, spent seven-figures trying to knock off Dixon in the final weeks of the primary campaign.
The former president also scored another big win in Michigan, with the primary defeat of Rep. Peter Meijer, one of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach the then-president for inciting the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Meijer, an Iraq War veteran who was elected to Congress in 2020, had been targeted by the former president over his impeachment vote and his comments that Trump was "unfit for office." The former president endorsed John Gibbs, a former software developer who served in the Trump administration as an acting assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Gibbs, a strong supporter of Trump’s repeated unproven claims that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged" due to "massive voter fraud," narrowly edged Meijer in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, on the western side of the state’s lower peninsula, a seat House Democrats view as competitive in November’s midterm elections.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is hoping to flip the district from red to blue as it tries to hold onto the party’s razor-thin majority in the chamber in the midterms, sees Gibbs as a weaker general election candidate than Meijer. Additionally, the DCCC meddled in the Republican primary, spending big bucks to boost Gibbs conservative credentials.
"John Gibbs WON with a big surge in the end. Not a good time for Impeachers," Trump touted.
Meijer was not the only House Republican on the ballot on Tuesday who voted to impeach Trump. GOP Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington State were facing multiple primary challengers — including candidates backed by Trump. Election results were still being counted in Washington, and no calls were made in either race as of early Wednesday morning. Washington conducts what is known as a jungle primary, in which the top two vote-getters — regardless of party affiliation — advance to the general election.
The former president also celebrated in Arizona, where a handful of candidates he endorsed – and who heavily supported Trump’s continued re-litigation of the 2020 election in a state that Biden narrowly won in the 2020 presidential election – came out on top.
Trump-endorsed venture capitalist Blake Masters won the GOP Senate primary. Masters’ bid was also backed and heavily supported by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, his former boss. Thiel pumped $15 million of his own money into a super PAC that boosted Masters, who will face off in November against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in a key battleground state race that may determine if the GOP wins back the Senate majority.
Trump-backed Mark Finchem – who claims that the 2020 election in Arizona’s Pima County was stolen – won the Republican nomination for Secretary of State.
In the gubernatorial primary, the race for the GOP nomination was still too close to call. Kari Lake, a former TV news anchor backed by Trump, held a slight edge early Wednesday over real estate developer and Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence and term-limited Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Trump also claimed victory in Missouri’s high-profile and combustible GOP Senate primary, where state Attorney General Eric Schmitt came out on top in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt.
After teasing on Monday that he would be making an endorsement in the race, Trump declined to choose between Schmitt and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who were two of the three leading contenders in the primary race.
Instead, Trump gave his support to both of them, as he backed "ERIC" on the eve of the primary.
"Great going "Eric." Big Night. Thank you!" Trump wrote after Schmitt’s victory.
While some Trump-backed candidates went down to defeat in high-profile contests earlier this primary season, Tuesday’s primaries once again prove that the former president remains the most popular, influential, and powerful politician in the GOP, as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in party primaries and appears to move closer to announcing another White House bid in 2024.
"Trump’s endorsed candidates had a good night. His endorsement record in GOP primaries remains very strong. Sometimes he rides the wave and endorses obvious winners late, sometimes he creates the wave. The more he wins, the more he is feared by GOP candidates," veteran Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told Fox News.
However, Democrats view victories by some Trump-backed GOP contenders in Republican primaries as gifts, giving them what they view are easier targets to attack.
In a taste of things to come, Sen. Kelly’s re-election campaign blasted Masters, charging that Arizona’s GOP Senate nominee has "dangerous beliefs that are wildly out of step with Arizona and harmful to Arizona families – like a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest and privatizing social security."
Mackowiak noted that "the more Trump pulls unproven GOP candidates over the primary finish line, the more he will be responsible for general election wins and losses with the stakes as high as they are."