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Trump holds sway in GOP as MAGA candidates win in key primary races

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Election ends in a slate of key primary races Tuesday night underscored former President Donald Trump’s enduring influence over the Republican Party, despite signals that his status as its de facto leader could also be eroding.

In Arizona, multiple candidates up and down the ballot who modeled themselves as true Trump loyalists — embracing each his election conspiracy theories and the Make America Great Again agenda — either won or seemed to be nearing victory in races that were still too near call by Wednesday morning.

And in Michigan, a House Republican incumbent who earned Trump’s scorn by voting for his impeachment after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot lost is his primary race against a Trump-endorsed challenger.

Trump took a victory lap on social media early Wednesday, suggesting the outcomes demonstrated the facility of his endorsement as a deciding think about each race where he had weighed in. But a few of those candidates were already front-runners by the point they received Trump’s endorsement — and in a single GOP primary in Missouri, Trump hedged his bet by endorsing “Eric” in a race where multiple contenders shared that first name.

In Washington, meanwhile, results were too early to call Wednesday morning in races involving two other House Republicans who voted to question Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 rebel.

The election outcomes, nevertheless, highlight how currying Trump’s favor and emulating his brand of hard-right populism — including by parroting his doubts concerning the integrity of elections — has turn out to be a widespread tactic amongst candidates trying to secure primary wins by appealing to Trump’s base.

The Arizona results specifically yielded quite a few victories for backers of Trump’s false claim that his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden was “rigged” by widespread fraud.

Amongst those primary winners is Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem, who denies Biden’s victory and attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally that shortly preceded the Capitol riot. If he were to win in November, Finchem would turn out to be the highest elections official within the state.

Five other Republican candidates labeled election deniers have won primaries for secretary of state, based on nonpartisan election watchdog States United Motion.

Also in Arizona, Trump-backed Senate candidate Blake Masters won the Republican primary, advancing him against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

And Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives who testified in a public hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, recounting how Trump and his allies pressured him to challenge 2020 election results, lost his primary bid for a state Senate seat.

Trump had endorsed Bowers’ Republican opponent, former state Sen. David Farnsworth, for the seat. Trump in that endorsement called Bowers a “weak and pathetic [Republican In Name Only] who has blocked Election Integrity.”

Meanwhile, the winner of Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial primary was too near call on Wednesday morning, based on NBC News’ tally of the race. But Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed former local news anchor who has repeatedly claimed the 2020 race was stolen, seemed to be leading her nearest GOP challenger Karrin Taylor Robson, who’s backed by former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump has also pushed for the ouster of the ten House Republicans who voted to question him after the riot, and far of the GOP has followed suit. 4 of those pro-impeachment Republicans — Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of Latest York and Fred Upton of Michigan — will retire at the tip of their current terms.

One other, Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., lost his primary race in June. David Valadao, R-Calif., survived his primary challenge.

But Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., lost his primary election Tuesday, after weathering attacks from each Trump and Democrats, who reportedly boosted his far-right opponent, John Gibbs.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s ad touting Gibbs’ ties to Trump drew accusations from Meijer’s campaign and others that Democrats were meddling within the race to spice up a potentially weaker candidate.

“I’m disgusted that hard-earned money intended to support Democrats is getting used to spice up Trump-endorsed candidates,” said U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn.

Democrats in Arizona reportedly attempted an analogous move within the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, a tactic that was seen as an effort to undermine Robson and help the far-right Lake.

“This was a hard-fought primary campaign, and I would like to thank everyone in West Michigan for his or her support,” Meijer said in a concession statement sent early Wednesday morning.

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