September 29, 2023

A remarkable victory for abortion rights in Kansas, combined with the defeats of some of the most out-and-out candidates in the Donald J. Trump, sent a clear message Tuesday that this year’s midterms are a tougher environment for hardline conservatives than Republicans once believed.

But there’s a twist: In places where the night was hardest for the far right, the GOP may benefit in November.

In Missouri, former Gov. Eric Greitens’ loss in the Republican Senate primary means retiring Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat is likely to remain safely in GOP hands.

And in Arizona, Kari Lake, the conspiracy-minded, Trump-backed candidate in the Republican gubernatorial race, surprisingly trailed Karrin Taylor Robson, a pro-establishment challenger, although Ms. Lake held on to an early victory on Wednesday.

Where the Trump wing prevailed, Democrats may prosper. That’s especially true in West Michigan, where a candidate backed by the former president, John Gibbs, narrowly won one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, Representative Peter Meijer. Mr. Gibbs’ victory gave Democrats a golden opportunity to grab a seat that has been redrawn to lean toward their party.

Here are five takeaways from a big election night in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Voters in deep red Kansas delivered a strong warning to Republicans across the country, signaling that abortion has the potential to energize voters the GOP had hoped would remain liberal. Democrats are likely to use the vote to try to build momentum and portray Republicans as out of step with the majority of Americans on the issue.

The vote in Kansas, which flatly rejected a referendum that would have removed the right to abortion from the state constitution, was the first test of Americans’ political stance on the issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It revealed that from the bluest counties to the reddest, abortion rights have outpaced Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s performance in the state in 2020.

As the polls began to close, Scott Schwab, the Kansas secretary of state, said election officials expected turnout to reach about 50 percent — well above the 36 percent his office had predicted before on election day, and especially impressive for a primary in a non-presidential election year.

It’s too early to tell the party’s collapse, but early results showed the strength of the abortion-rights side was not limited to Democratic districts.

The referendum was rejected not only in moderate and increasingly blue areas like the Kansas City suburbs, but also in some conservative parts of the state. Swing areas swung to the left.

As both parties look to elections this fall in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona that could help decide the future of abortion rights, Kansans showed the political winds on the issue are shifting.

For much of this year, the 2021 vote to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Capitol Hill appeared to be a career-ending move for a House Republican.

Of the 10 who voted, four dropped out before they could face the primary electorate. One, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, was defeated by a Trump-backed Republican. One, Rep. David Valadao of California, survived the night of the primary to remain on the ballot in November.

Tuesday was a major defensive stand for the GOP against Trump, with three of the remaining four Republicans who voted for impeachment facing the former president’s wrath on the ballot. Races for two in Washington, Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, were too close to happen — and one, Mr. Meijer, did not survive.

There was plenty of drama. Mr. Meijer was fighting not only the Trump-backed Mr. Gibbs, but also the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spent more than $400,000 on ads designed to boost the little-known Mr. Gibbs in the hope that could be more easily defeated. by Hillary Scholten, Democrat, in November.

Ms. Beutler’s Trump-backed opponent, Joe Kent, is a square-jawed retired soldier whose wife was killed by a suicide bomber in Syria. Mr Kent has veered to the hard right, expressing sympathy for the January 6 rioters and repeating false claims of a stolen 2020 election.

The Democrats’ high-risk strategy of fielding an election-denying conspiracy theorist in Michigan has worked for now: Mr. Gibbs will be the Republican nominee in a newly drawn seat that Mr. Biden would have won by nine percentage points in 2020. If Mr. Gibbs prevails in November, the charges against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will be brutal.

But if the two impeachment advocates win in Washington, it will mean more than 10 who faced primary voters have survived rather than been defeated. Later this month, Rep. Liz Cheney will be the last of the 10 to face voters.

Meanwhile, the former president’s winning streak in Republican Senate primaries continued in Arizona, where a young politician, Blake Masters, won the nomination after receiving Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

If Mr. Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is loosening slightly, his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen have persisted and spread among prominent Republican candidates. And some candidates’ primary victories on Tuesday could make the issue of the Democratic primary a central issue in their November general election.

Mark Finchem, who has identified himself as a member of the Oath Keepers militia in the past and has circulated wild, false allegations of election malpractice, won the Republican nomination for secretary of state in Arizona.

He will run in November for a post overseeing future elections in a state that Joseph R. Biden Jr. narrowly won in 2020 and where election conspiracy theorists have wreaked havoc ever since.

In Missouri, the winner of the Republican primary for the open state Senate seat, Eric Schmidt, has led several other state attorneys general to go to the Supreme Court in 2020 to take over and possibly overturn Mr. Biden’s election victory. in Pennsylvania.

And in Michigan, Ms. Dixon, a conservative commentator who won the Republican nomination for governor, wavered when asked whether Mr. Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in her state was legitimate.

Election officials are also still fighting conspiracy theories. In Michigan, prominent election naysayers clinging to the lies of a stolen 2020 presidential contest have organized to register as poll workers and forced officials to respond to a series of false claims and security concerns.

In Arizona, Republican lawmakers who questioned Mr. Biden’s victory in the state they were called on Tuesday for people to stake ballots to make sure no one filled out illegal ballots, according to voting rights groups and a local news report.

Mr. Greitens’ decisive defeat in Missouri’s Republican Senate primary showed that after all the turmoil of the past six years, there are still insurmountable lines in politics. Mr Trump once said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and not lose a single supporter.

Mr. Greitens resigned as governor of Missouri in 2018 while facing allegations that he lured an ex-girlfriend to his home, tied her up, tore off her clothes, photographed her partially nude, threatened to release the photos if she spoke and forced her to perform. oral sex.

He thought he could make a political comeback as a United States senator. Even when his ex-wife accused him in an affidavit of physically abusing her and one of their young sons, he pressed on, denying the allegations and claiming his accusers had been manipulated by establishment RINOs or just Republicans.

Early Wednesday, Mr. Greitens had less than 19 percent of the vote, a distant third. The rancid mud still clings.

Governor Whitmer has maintained much higher approval ratings than Mr. Biden as she has led Michigan through a pandemic, an economic crisis and a dam collapse.

But she could face a tough opponent in Ms. Dixon, who has managed to unite warring factions of her party allied with Mr. Trump and the state’s wealthy DeVos family. Ms. Dixon said she decided to run because of her anger at Ms. Whitmer’s policies, particularly the health restrictions at the start of the pandemic that were among the strictest in the country.

The games in Arizona and Kansas could prove to be even tighter.

In Arizona, Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state and now the party’s nominee for governor, has emerged as a high-profile advocate for the state’s 2020 election, which has overcome death threats that prompted 24-hour security from state troopers.

She could be up against Ms Taylor Robson, who early on Wednesday appeared to be leading the Trump-backed Ms Lake. Ms Taylor Robson has the endorsements of former Vice President Mike Pence and term-limited Governor Doug Ducey, as well as other prominent Republicans.

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, will face Derek Schmidt, the Trump-backed attorney general. It’s a tough landscape for Democrats, but Ms. Kelly’s approval ratings are relatively strong. A former state senator, he rose to higher office in 2018 after defeating Kris W. Kobach, a Republican known for his insidious warnings about voter fraud and illegal immigration. Mr. Kobach won the Republican primary for Kansas attorney general on Tuesday.

Maggie Astor and Nate Cohn contributed to the report.

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