The results of Tuesday’s primary elections simultaneously bolstered the Republican Party mainstream and demonstrated how much ground it has yielded to Donald Trump, particularly on the volatile issue of immigration.
In several key races, GOP primary voters rejected candidates who presented themselves as the most ardent acolytes of Trump, in terms of style, political agenda, or both. But the relatively more mainstream alternatives triumphed in those contests only after embracing much, or all, of Trump’s hostility toward immigration. That dynamic underscores Trump’s success at eroding resistance in the GOP toward his racially infused nationalism. And that could prove a defining gamble for the party in a nation inexorably growing more diverse.
In the near term, Republican strategists were mostly breathing a sigh of relief after voters picked party favorites over populist and conservative insurgents in almost all races where they clashed. (The biggest exception was a North Carolina House race.)
In Ohio, state attorney general and former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine easily won the gubernatorial nomination over Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, who bonded herself to Trump and besieged DeWine as insufficiently conservative. In the Columbus, Ohio, district being vacated by Representative Pat Tiberi—the site of the next marquee U.S. House special election—state Senator Troy Balderson narrowly topped Melanie Leneghan, who ran hard to his right. In the West Virginia Senate primary, the formerly incarcerated coal-company executive Don Blankenship declared himself “Trumpier than Trump,” but finished a distant third; state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey captured the nomination to face Democrat Joe Manchin in November.