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Nebraska businessman Charles Herbster, who faced allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women, lost the Republican nomination for governor.
Herbster’s downfall may be only a temporary blemish on Trump’s record. After all, the former president’s endorsed candidates are four for five this month in primary races in which there were either no or two incumbents running.
But this week may turn that blemish into a downright blotch, as Trump’s magic endorsement hand faces its toughest challenges so far.
More Trump-endorsed candidates may lose this week
The highest-profile race of the week by far is Pennsylvania’s Republican US Senate primary. The biggest name on the ballot is Mehmet Oz, the Trump-endorsed celebrity doctor and former TV star. For a long time, it looked as if the only threat to knock him off was former hedge fund executive David McCormick.
And while Oz has as good a chance as Barnette or McCormick, it’s pretty clear that a Trump endorsement has its limits. Oz isn’t running miles ahead of the field. His favourable rating (45 per cent) is a point lower than his unfavourable rating (46 per cent), according to the Fox poll. Both Barnette and McCormick have favorable ratings that are at least 20 points higher than their unfavourables.
Indeed, Trump has an 80 per cent favourable rating among Republican primary voters in Pennsylvania.
What may be troubling for the former president ahead of 2024 is that merely putting the Trump stamp on something may not be enough. He can no longer count on being so unique that people who identify with his style of politics are going to follow his every word. There are loads of imitators, so people can get someone who holds the positions of Trump without that person being or being endorsed by him.
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Cawthorn’s chief opponent in the GOP primary, state Senator Chuck Edwards, has benefited from the incumbent’s stumbles. He’s been endorsed by North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis as well as the highest-ranking Republican officials in the state legislature.
That an incumbent House member may lose a primary is a big deal. This race shouldn’t be close. Cawthorn’s problems are not ideological, but scandal-driven. Coming on the heels of Herbster’s defeat, a Cawthorn loss would show that Republicans are willing to tolerate only so much.
And that even with Trump’s backing, politicians are still susceptible to some normal rules of political gravity.