By Harry Enten, CNN
This past week, former President Donald Trump suffered his first high-profile endorsement defeat of 2022. Nebraska businessman Charles Herbster, who faced allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women, lost the GOP 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 4 for 5 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.
A Fox poll out last week shows, however, that Oz doesn’t just have one person to worry about, but two. The survey did show the power of Trump’s endorsement, as Oz jumped from 15% in the same poll in March to 22% now. McCormick was right behind him at 20%, compared with 24% in March.
Oz, though, was not the candidate who moved the most in the Fox poll. Conservative commentator and Club for Growth-backed Kathy Barnette went from 9% to 19%. Barnette, McCormick and Oz are all well within the margin of error of one another, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if any of them win.
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 favorable rating (45%) is a point lower than his unfavorable rating (46%), according to the Fox poll. Both Barnette and McCormick have favorable ratings that are at least 20 points higher than their unfavorables.
To be clear, an Oz loss, were it to happen, shouldn’t be seen as a repudiation of Trump’s style of politics. All three front-runners are fans of the former President. Barnette, for example, organized buses for the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on January 6, 2021. Opponents of Oz have instead argued that Trump simply got his endorsement wrong.
Indeed, Trump has an 80% favorable 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.
Oz is not the only Trump-endorsed candidate who may lose a primary on Tuesday. Scandal-plagued US Rep. Madison Cawthorn is in big trouble too, in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Cawthorn has made a lot of enemies within the Republican Party, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said Cawthorn had “lost [his] trust.”
Cawthorn’s chief opponent in the GOP primary, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, has benefited from the incumbent’s stumbles. He’s been endorsed by North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis as well as the highest-ranking Republican officials in the state legislature.
There isn’t reliable polling from the district. But the implied odds from the betting markets have Cawthorn and Edwards neck and neck. That’s quite the change from two months ago, when Cawthorn had about an 85% chance to win.
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.
Republicans may be throwing away gubernatorial wins in the Northeast
If story 1a on Tuesday is the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary, story 1b is the Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial primary. Establishment Republicans are in a panic over their presumed front-runner, who earned Trump’s endorsement Saturday: state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
Mastriano is one of the biggest propagators of the false belief that President Joe Biden didn’t legitimately win the 2020 election. It is widely believed that Mastriano would be a weak general election candidate against the commonwealth’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary and put up the strongest performance in 2020 of any Democrat running statewide.
The aforementioned Fox poll had Mastriano jumping from 18% in March to 29% now. He held a double-digit lead over his nearest competitor, former US Rep. Lou Barletta, who was at 17%. Mastriano’s advantage was so alarming that two candidates polling in the single digits (state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and former US Rep. Melissa Hart) dropped out and endorsed Barletta.
Although the correlation with the national environment isn’t as strong in governors’ races as it is in federal ones, Republicans should have a leg up in a gubernatorial contest in a place like Pennsylvania. Biden won the commonwealth by a mere point in 2020, and this is shaping up to be a much more favorable year for Republicans.
Yet this wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory that Pennsylvania Republicans have lost a gubernatorial race that the national winds said they should have won. In 2014, a good year for the GOP, Republican Tom Corbett became the first Pennsylvania governor to lose a reelection bid in over 150 years.
Pennsylvania isn’t the only example of Northeast Republicans potentially blowing their chance to take a governor’s mansion in search of ideological purity.
Anti-Trump Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is the rare Republican who can regularly pull in approval ratings north of 70% in a deep-blue state. Trump strongly disliked him and backed someone else for the GOP nomination for governor. Polling shows that Republican voters have followed in the former President’s lead.
Baker, who would have had a difficult time winning a Republican primary, decided to retire. Polls to this day indicate that Baker could still win as a third-party candidate, though he seems unlikely to take that route.
The polls also show that Democrats would be the clear favorite for the fall campaign, with election handicappers having the race as at least leaning Democratic.
In New York, the Northeast’s biggest state, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, who took office last year after Andrew Cuomo resigned, should be in trouble. She’s plagued by, among other things, her lieutenant governor having to resign after getting arrested and a Buffalo Bills stadium deal that is quite unpopular with voters.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll of the Democratic base in New York City had Hochul’s approval rating at 50% and her disapproval rating at 40%, a 10-point spread. For comparison, Biden won the city by more than 50 points in 2020.
But who is going to beat Hochul? The official state party designee for the Republican nomination is US Rep. Lee Zeldin, who leads in primary polls too. He voted against certifying the 2020 electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania. Such a record would likely be hard to overcome in a state that backed Biden by over 20 points.
Zeldin has trailed Hochul by double digits in pretty much every statewide poll of the race, and election handicappers rate the contest as uncompetitive at this point.
The days of George Pataki and certainly Nelson Rockefeller seem long gone.
For your brief encounters: Is Friday the 13th a spooky day?
If I say the words “Friday the 13th,” you’re probably conjuring up images of a horror film set in autumn. This past Friday the 13th took place on a spring day, which probably did the opposite of freak you out.
Polling shows that although most Americans don’t believe that Friday the 13th brings bad luck, a sizable minority of them think it does, as they do with other suspicions, such as walking under a ladder or the number 666.
Cryptocurrency as an investment: Americans don’t view cryptocurrencies as a safe bet. Asked by Gallup which was the best investment over the long term — “bonds, real estate, savings accounts or CDs, stocks or mutual funds, gold, (or) cryptocurrency” — only 8% said cryptocurrency. This was before the current sharp downward trend in the crypto market.
Covid-19 cases are up, but worry is not: Polling of Americans avoiding large crowds (32%), public places (21%) or small gatherings (15%) is at the lowest point since the start of the pandemic, according to Gallup. This comes as the percentage of Americans very or somewhat worried about catching Covid (31%) is the lowest in nearly a year.
Education matters a lot in moving up or down: A new Pew Research Center study of Census Bureau data from 2000 to 2021 shows how much education matters in moving up and down economically from year to year.
Those with at least a college degree were three times as likely as those with less than a high school degree to move from the middle- to upper-income tier. Those with less than a high school degree were three times as likely as those with at least a college degree to move from the middle-income to lower-income tier.
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