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4 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Primaries in Nebraska and West Virginia


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A federal candidate backed by former President Donald J. Trump won a contested primary for the second consecutive week on Tuesday, as Representative Alex Mooney resoundingly defeated Representative David McKinley in West Virginia in the primary incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary race of 2022.

But Mr. Trump’s endorsement scorecard took a success in Nebraska, where his preferred candidate for governor, Charles W. Herbster, lost in a three-way race to Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent who had the backing of outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Listed below are 4 takeaways from primary night in Nebraska and West Virginia:

On paper, West Virginia’s recent second congressional district must have given a bonus to Mr. McKinley, 75, who had previously represented a bigger swath of its territory as he sought a seventh term. But Mr. Mooney, 50, who once led the Republican Party in neighboring Maryland, nonetheless romped across nearly all the district, except for the state’s northern panhandle, on Tuesday.

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Mr. Trump’s endorsement is widely seen as powering the Mooney campaign in one among the states where the previous president has been hottest.

Throughout the race, Mr. Mooney slashed at Mr. McKinley as a “RINO” — “Republican in name only” — and took aim at a few of his aisle-crossing votes, including for the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed Congress last yr and the bipartisan laws to create the commission examining the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Mr. Trump sided with Mr. Mooney early on, and invited him to look alongside him at a rally in Pennsylvania last week. There, Mr. Trump joked that Mr. Mooney should defeat Mr. McKinley “easily.” He largely did, with landslide-level margins topping 70 percent in a number of the eastern counties that border Maryland.

The race comes per week after Mr. Trump helped J.D. Vance win an expensive Ohio Senate primary, and it again showed his influence when endorsing House and Senate candidates.

President Biden was not on the ballot within the West Virginia House race. But his belief that voters will reward members of Congress who put partisanship aside to get things done took one other blow.

Mr. McKinley seemingly fit very much within the long West Virginia tradition of bring-home-the-bacon lawmakers (See: Robert C. Byrd).

Mr. McKinley had campaigned alongside Gov. Jim Justice, a Democrat-turned-Republican, and turned to Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, within the closing stretch as a pitchman.

But Republican primary voters were in no mood for compromise.

“Liberal David McKinley sided with Biden’s trillion-dollar spending spree,” said one Mooney ad that began with the narrator saying he had a “breaking MAGA alert.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Biden delivered a speech acknowledging that he had miscalculated in his belief that Trump-style Republicanism would fade with Mr. Trump’s departure. “I never expected — let me say — let me say this rigorously: I never expected the Ultra-MAGA Republicans, who seem to manage the Republican Party now, to have been in a position to control the Republican Party,” Mr. Biden said.

On Tuesday evening, voters in West Virginia reaffirmed where the facility within the party lies.

Mr. Herbster had tried to make the Nebraska governor’s primary a referendum on Mr. Trump. He called it “a proxy war between all the Republican establishment” and the previous president. He cited Mr. Trump at every opportunity. He appeared with him at a rally.

However the race became about Mr. Herbster himself, after he faced accusations of groping and unwanted contact from multiple women in the ultimate weeks of the race.

Voters as a substitute went with Mr. Pillen, a former University of Nebraska football player, who had also run as a conservative selection with the backing of the outgoing governor. A 3rd candidate, Brett Lindstrom, a state senator from outside Omaha, had campaigned for support from the more moderate faction of the party.

Mr. Herbster becomes the primary Trump-endorsed candidate to lose in a 2022 primary — but likely not the last.

Mr. Trump’s decisions for House and Senate thus far in 2022 have succeeded (Mr. Mooney and Mr. Vance). His first pick in a governor’s race has stumbled. In the following two weeks, Mr. Trump is backing two more Republican candidates for governor, in Idaho and Georgia, each of whom are difficult Republican incumbents and neither of whom is favored to win.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s picks for Senate in North Carolina and Pennsylvania each have a likelihood to win in next week’s primaries.

The gap between the politics of American cities and rural areas isn’t just a difficulty between the Republican and Democratic parties — it’s a difficulty throughout the Republican Party, as well.

For the second consecutive week (following the Senate race in Ohio), the outcomes map showed that urban areas remain a stronghold for more moderate and traditional Republican voters — and that rural areas are extremely hostile to that brand of politics.

In Ohio, State Senator Matt Dolan, who didn’t pursue Mr. Trump’s backing, succeeded within the cities of Cleveland and Columbus but was overwhelmed almost all over the place else.

In Nebraska, Mr. Lindstrom, one other Republican state senator, performed strongest in Douglas County, home to Omaha, while getting obliterated in much of the remaining of the state. In additional rural parts of Nebraska, Mr. Lindstrom rarely topped 20 percent of the vote and in some places sank to single digits.

In Cherry County, with many of the vote counted, Mr. Lindstrom was below 7 percent; the Trump-backed Mr. Herbster, meanwhile, was above 50 percent — even en path to a statewide defeat.

It was Mr. Pillen who was winning, ending in a virtual tie with Mr. Lindstrom in Lancaster County, home to Lincoln and the state’s second-biggest voter hub, while outpacing each his rivals throughout most of the remaining of the state.

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