Another round of primaries Tuesday appeared to further cement the agenda of President Donald Trump as the driving force behind the Republican Party. Since the presidential primary campaign of 2016, the party has been immersed in an internal struggle between the pro- and anti-Trump factions but congressional GOP candidates favoring the president’s way of doing things continue to succeed in the primaries for this year’s midterm elections. Conversely, there is no discernible move away from the Trump Agenda. In more bad news for the president’s opponents, these latest results do not indicate an enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democratic voters.
In Idaho, former State Senator Russ Fulcher registered an overwhelming victory in the Republican primary for the first district seat. The incumbent, Raúl Labrador, had thrown his hat in the ring for Governor but lost his own primary to current Lieutenant Governor Brad Little. Fulcher, a limited-government advocate endorsed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the Club for Growth, will face off against Democrat Christina McNeil, who easily won her party’s primary.
No Wilt in Republican Turnout
In the state’s 2nd district, incumbent Michael Simpson, who ran unopposed in the primary, will very likely hold his seat against Democratic challenger Aaron Swisher. Idaho shows no signs of succumbing to the rumored ‘blue wave,’ judging by voter turnout in the primaries. There were 19,313 votes cast in the Democratic primary for the first district and 27,287 in the party’s second district primary. By contrast, 98,680 voters participated in the first district GOP primary.
Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer (R) easily defeated four primary challengers to secure her re-election bid and will face Democrat Jane Raybould in November. The GOP primary attracted twice as many voters as the Democratic primary. Libertarian Jim Schultz will also challenge Fischer in November. Republican incumbent Jeff Fortenberry was unopposed and will defend his first district seat against Democrat Jessica McClure.
Don Bacon, who represents Nebraska’s second district, may have one of the GOP’s toughest House fights come November. In 2016, his district went for Trump by a narrow 2.2% and his own election win was even narrower. In the midterms, he will face Democrat Kara Eastman. Republican Adrian Smith won his primary and will defend his third district seat against Paul Theobald, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. Oregon’s single Republican Representative, Greg Walden, was a comfortable winner Tuesday and is virtually assured re-election to his second district seat.
All Eyes on Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey Jr. will defend his Senate seat against another Trumpian Republican, Lou Barletta, who comfortably won the Republican primary in a contest that attracted more than 480,000 voters. Casey’s re-election is not considered a certainty but he is thought to be one of the less vulnerable Democratic Senators running in states that went for Trump in 2016. It will be a race to watch. Barletta was persuaded to run for the Senate by Trump and a win for him in November would be seen as major victory for the president and a serious setback for Democrats.
The state’s redrawn districts pose the Republican Party’s greatest challenge in November. First district incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick will fight to retain a seat the Democrats feel confident about flipping. On both sides of the aisle, incumbents won through – some unopposed and some coming out atop crowded primary fields. For Republicans, Pennsylvania will be a test of how much the electorate approves of the Trump economy. For Democrats, the state is vital to their blue wave dreams. Generic ballots have narrowed sharply over the past few months and, though Republicans can remain optimistic, Pennsylvania will put the Trump doctrine to the test in November.