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Thus Far, Trump Has Huge Coattails. The Best Coattails.

Trump’s chosen candidates are winning from top to bottom of the ballot.

Credit: Evan El-Amin

President Donald Trump’s victories in last night’s primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, and Ohio were foregone conclusions. All of Trump’s challengers have already exited the race and, for the third straight presidential cycle, Trump has secured the Republican nomination. This alone suggests Trump’s takeover of the GOP is near total, but there’s even more evidence down ballot.

On Tuesday, Trump’s chosen candidates beat expectations. Nowhere was that clearer than in Ohio’s senate primary. The businessman Bernie Moreno bested state Sen. Matt Dolan by nearly twenty points. Moreno received more than 50 percent of the vote and carried every county in the Buckeye state. 


Moreno had the momentum throughout much of the campaign, as both Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance not only endorsed Moreno but campaigned with him. At the 11th hour, however, a supposed scandal involving a profile seeking gay sex on Adult Friend Finder from 2008 was traced back to an email address allegedly owned by Moreno. Moreno said the incident was a prank by an intern of his at the time. The known facts of the incident, not to mention the fact that the former intern responsible for the prank came forward and confirmed Moreno’s story, suggest that Moreno is telling the truth. Nevertheless, Moreno’s opponents, both Democrat and Republican, tried to make the story stick, but to no avail.

In House primaries, most of Trump’s endorsed candidates breezed through their primaries. To use Ohio again as an example, all but one of Trump’s endorsements in Ohio were for incumbents, most of whom didn’t even face a primary challenger. While some of Trump’s endorsements cut would-be challengers off at the pass, Trump’s non-incumbent endorsements fared well, too. The Trump-endorsed state Rep. Derek Merrin defeated Rep. Craig Riedel despite entering the race only in December after audio leaked of Riedel criticizing the former president. Merrin quickly captured prominent GOP support.

Tuesday night wasn’t completely free of close calls, however. In Illinois’s 12th district, the Trump-endorsed incumbent Mike Bost edged out former state Rep. Darren Bailey, who had backing from major Trump allies such as Rep. Matt Gaetz. Simply put: Without Trump, Bost would have lost. 

The close race in Illinois’s 12th suggests something else, too. Bailey, as seen via Gaetz’s endorsement, sees eye to eye with Trump and Trump’s allies in Congress on policy. Bost, meanwhile, is seen as more establishment. Why Trump endorsed Bost, one can only speculate. But Bost’s narrow margin of victory suggests that, while the Republican base takes a lot of its cues from the former president, they do understand the agenda and politics of the movement Trump has started. When Trump comes into tension with a candidate in the America First mold, they feel it. This makes sense if Trump is truly a figure that tapped into latent attitudes that existed in the GOP before 2016; Trump has only heightened those attitudes and shaped the party around them. This is to say that America First, the MAGA movement, populism—whatever you call it, it will outlive Trump.

For now, however, Trump is still king and, for smaller realms all around the country, kingmaker. Trump has made 88 endorsements in the primaries thus far. Not a single candidate for federal office has lost their primary with Trump’s backing. Only three Trump-endorsed state legislative candidates have lost. Across state and federal primaries, Trump is 58 for 61 thus far. When November rolls around, the 58 winners will have the added benefit of Trump on the top of the ticket once again.


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