‘Trump is in the past’: mounting losses show power limits

WOODSTOCK, Go. (AP) — Donald Trump opened in May by eliminating a lagging senate candidate in Ohio to the Republican nomination, seemingly cementing the former president’s kingmaker status before another potential White House run. However, he ends the month, sticking out from a string of defeats which indicate a declining stature.

Trump faced a series of setbacks in Tuesday’s primaries, when voters rejected his efforts to overturn two top targets for retaliation: the Republican governor and secretary of state of Georgia, who both rejected Trump’s extraordinary pressure to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election. But the magnitude of the governor’s race defeat — more than 50 percentage points — was especially staggering, raising questions about whether Republican voters are starting to leave Trump.

Nearly seven years after the former reality TV star launched what appeared to be an unlikely White House campaign, the “Make America Great Again” movement that Trump led is not going anywhere. But voters are increasingly saying that the party’s future is about more than just Trump.

“I love Trump very much, but Trump is in the past,” said David Butler of Woodstock, Georgia, who voted for Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday, saying Trump’s approvals “didn’t affect his thinking at all.”

The same was true for Will Parbhoo, a 22-year-old dental assistant who also voted for Kemp.

“I’m not really a Trumper,” he said after the vote. “For starters, I didn’t like him. With all the election stuff I was like, ‘Dude, move on.’”

Something Parbhoo liked about the current governor? “Kemp is focused on Georgia,” he said.

Trump tried to downplay the losses of his favorite candidates by saying on his social media platform on Wednesday that he had a “very big and successful night of political approvals” and insisting that some races were “not possible to win”.

Still, the pattern of high-profile defeats is hard to ignore.

After JD Vance jumped from third to first place following Trump’s approval in the Ohio Senate primaries, the dynamics took a turn. Trump’s choice in Nebraska primary for governor, Charles Herbster, lost his race after allegations emerged that he had groped women.

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A week later, the governor in Idaho defeated a Trump-backed challenger† In North Carolina, voters rejected Trump’s plea to give scandal-plagued congressman a second chance† And in Pennsylvania, a Senate primaries with Trump-approved famed cardiac surgeon Mehmet Oz staying too close to call.

But his biggest annoyance was in Georgia, a pivotal swing state, where former Senator David Perdue, whom Trump had lobbied to run and help clear the field, lost to Kemp. The governor was one of Trump’s top targets after he refused to reverse the results of his state’s 2020 White House election.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who defied Trump’s call to “find” the votes to change the outcome two years ago — a call now under investigation – also won his party’s nomination. Attorney General Chris Carr and Insurance Commissioner John King — both opposed by Trump — were also successful in their primary.

In Alabama, Representative Mo Brooks, whose Senate approval Trump withdrew as he struggled to gain tractionmade it a runoffafter he gained support after Trump dropped him.

Trump has endorsed nearly 200 races, from governor to county commissioner, often putting himself in competitions that aren’t particularly competitive and helping bolster his collection of wins. Some of his work, even in multi-candidate races, has paid off.

His early support helped football great Herschel Walker and Rep. Ted Budd sail to their respective Senate primary nominations in Georgia and North Carolina. Sarah Huckabee SandersTrump’s former press secretary easily won the GOP nomination for governor in Arkansas. And even in Georgia, all the candidates Trump backed won in open races or are going to the second round.

Some allies say Trump’s approval score is a poor measure of his influence, even if Trump is constantly promoting that record.

They argue that voters may support the former president and would like him to rejoin, but be unconvinced by his selections, especially in races with governors like Kemp who have a long history with voters. And even without Trump on the ballot, the party has transformed into Trump’s image, with candidates adopting his “America First” platform, mimicking his tactics and telling his lies about a stolen election.

But now that Trump has been 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, has become a driving ideological force in the party. Republicans like the conspiracy-embracing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greenewho won her party’s nomination for reelection on Tuesday has taken over his mantle in Washington.

Meanwhile, potential Trump presidential rivals wait in the wings for 2024.

Former Vice President Mike Pencewho distanced himself from Trump, met with Kemp in a suburb of Atlanta Monday night and told the crowd that “elections are about the future” — an implicit knock on his former boss.

Trump has also spawned a new generation of candidates who have channeled his “MAGA” brand but who have done so independently of his support and see themselves as the next iteration.

“MAGA doesn’t belong to him,” Kathy Barnette, the Pennsylvania Senate candidate whose recent turnout stunned party insiders, said in an interview. “Trump coined the word. He does not own it.”

While the left, she said, may see the “MAGA movement” as a “cult of Trump voters,” she said it goes way beyond one man. She argued that Trump passed in 2016 because he joined voters’ concerns and said out loud what people were already thinking, particularly about immigration. She said she tried to do the same in her race.

“I do believe Trump still has an important voice,” she added, but “he needs to get better advisors, and in addition, he needs to do a better job of remembering why we were aligned with him. “It wasn’t because we aligned with his values. It was because he was aligned with our values. And I think he needs to remember that so his voice can stay relevant.”

Other Republicans grumble that precious time and money has been wasted on an ego-driven Trump revenge campaign, forcing the incumbents to defend in primaries rather than focus on general elections. They worry that Trump has elevated a number of candidates who may turn out to be ineligible in November’s general election and has exacerbated the division.

“There’s no question that unnecessary battles with some sort of extreme party, from Trump’s Complaint Party, made it harder for us to win in November,” Maryland Gov said. Larry Hogan, a potential GOP presidential candidate for 2024 who has worked to protect incumbent governors.

Hogan, a critic of Trump, said the races have been “a bit of a mixed bag” so far.

“We are in the midst of a battle for the soul of the Republican Party and frankly, the battle is not over,” he said. “I don’t think we can say exactly what the outcome will be yet. And I think we have a lot more primaries to go.”

Others are more confident in saying that Trump’s power has waned over time.

“Trump’s endorsement is helpful, but it’s not something that by itself can put anyone over the top. And that means it’s less powerful than it was when he was president and it seemed a fait accompli when he approved it,” said Mike DuHaime, a longtime GOP strategist.

Still, he acknowledged that Trump is “still the most influential person in the party,” even though that influence has waned.

Colvin reported from New York.

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