Six takeaways from Tuesday’s primary elections in six states – Washington Examiner

Former President Donald Trump‘s influence over the GOP further solidified Tuesday evening when his candidates won their primary races.

But Trump and President Joe Biden still face nagging problems within their parties as protest voters continue their ongoing snub of both candidates after Tuesday’s elections in ArizonaIllinoisKansasOhio, and Florida.

Plus, no victor emerged in a special election in California to immediately replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in Congress, meaning Republicans’ slim majority in the House will remain narrow.

Here are the top takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries.


Trump endorsements hold sway in Ohio

In the highly-watched GOP Senate primary in Ohio, Republican Bernie Moreno, backed by Trump, came out on top. He will face incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in a Senate race that the GOP has targeted as a prime pickup in November.

Moreno received 50.4% of the vote, defeating state Sen. Matt Dolan who received 32.7% and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose at 16.9% with 90% of the vote counted. Trump’s endorsement of Moreno and his campaigning in the Buckeye State boosted the entrepreneur who will now focus on helping the GOP retake control of the Senate in November.

Moreno thanks Trump for his support in the Ohio Senate race, saying he just got off the phone with him before addressing the crowd at his watch party.

— David Sivak (@DISivak) March 20, 2024

Elsewhere in Ohio, another Trump-backed candidate state Rep. Derek Merrin won the Republican primary in Ohio’s 9th Congressional District defeating Steve Lankenau, and Craig Riedel. J.R. Majewski, who exited the race earlier this month after making controversial comments.

Merrin is set to face Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), the longest-serving woman in Congress, in November. Republicans are hoping to flip the vulnerable Democrat’s seat.

In Ohio’s 12 Congressional District Trump-endorsed incumbent Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) is fending off a primary challenger from Darren Bailey.

Bailey had the backing of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and House Freedom Caucus member Mary Miller (R-IL), but appeared unable to dethrone Bost’s incumbency advantage and Trump’s support.

The Associated Press has not called the race yet but Bost is leading 53% to Bailey’s 47% with nearly 83% of the votes counted.

Trump’s exit polling warnings

Trump clinched the Republican presidential primary last week but he remains plagued by the unsuccessful primary challenger and his first ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

Preliminary exit polls in Ohio show 22% of voters said they would be dissatisfied if Trump were the GOP nominee. Most chilling for the Trump campaign is that 19% of Buckeye State GOP voters said they wouldn’t support Trump in November. Of that 19%, 11% preferred Biden, and 8% said they wouldn’t vote for either candidate.

This combo photo shows Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, left, in Greenwood, S.C., and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump in Conway, S.C., on Feb. 10, 2024. (AP Photo, File)

Haley voters were more likely to not want to support Trump in November the polls showed.

Nearly 90% of Haley supporters in Ohio said they would be dissatisfied with Trump as the nominee, and 8 in 10 said they wouldn’t vote for him in November. Almost 50% of Haley’s supporters who wouldn’t vote for Trump preferred Biden, and 32% said they wouldn’t vote for either candidate.

Haley went on to win 15% of the vote in Ohio, nearly 14% in Florida, Trump’s home state, 16% in Kansas, 22% in Arizona, and 14% in Illinois.

As results were coming in the Biden campaign bragged about wooing a former Haley donor Harry Sloan, who is now fundraising for Biden and snubbing Trump.

In an email sent out Tuesday evening, the campaign highlighted a CNBC article that claimed Sloan was “among at least half a dozen former Haley bundlers” supporting Biden in the 2024 race.

Biden’s protest vote problems

Like Trump, Biden clinched his party’s presumptive nominee status last week but “uncommitted” votes are a reminder that an overseas battle could weaken the coalition needed to win reelection in November.

Arab and Muslim voters who have called for a permanent ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas staged an “uncommitted” campaign that started in Michigan and has spread to several Super Tuesday states and beyond.

In Kansas, one of the two states voting on Tuesday with the option to stage a protest vote, Biden lost more than 15% of the vote to “None of the Names Shown” (10%), author Marianne Williamson (3.4%), Phillips (1.2%) and Jason Palmer (1.1%).

In Arizona, organizers had pushed for voters to cast a ballot for Williamson as the ballot did not have an “uncommitted” option but the author only pulled in 3.4% of the vote with 44% of the vote counted.

Meanwhile, another former Biden challenger, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), won 13% of the vote in Ohio and is on track to pick up delegates for the first time in the primary season. This marks his second-best primary performance after New Hampshire’s primary in January when he won 19.6% of the vote but still lost to Biden, who wasn’t on the ballot.

Democrats pick Ohio state supreme court candidate

Democrats hoping to win an open seat on Ohio’s Supreme Court selected Judge Lisa Forbes, an 8th District Court of Appeals judge, to face Republican Dan Hawkins, a judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, in November.

Forbes, who was endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party, defeated 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison in the Democratic primary.

Democrats are defending two out of three seats on the state’s supreme court. Should they keep the two seats and win the open seat in November they will then have a 4-3 majority, in a state that twice voted for Trump in the last two presidential elections.

One of the most notable decisions the court will make is how to implement an amendment to the state’s constitution protecting abortion access, which voters approved during last year’s off-year elections.

The special election to replace Kevin McCarthy heads to a runoff

Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong failed to secure more than 50% of the primary vote to fill the rest of McCarthy’s term in California’s 20th Congressional District after he left Congress last December. Fong won 40.4% of the vote with 82% of votes counted while Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux had with 26% of votes counted and is battling to advance to the runoff against Democrat Marisa Wood at 23% as of 1 a.m. Eastern

Fong and the second-place finisher will face off during the May 21 runoff election to determine who will serve the rest of McCarthy’s term.

Fong already secured a general election spot to replace McCarthy for a full term starting in January 2025 as has Boudreaux.


Speaker Johnson must wait a bit longer for GOP reinforcements

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s slim majority will remain narrow after McCarthy’s replacement won’t be selected until May and the vacancy created by retired Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson won’t be filled until after the June 11 general election.

State Sen. Michael Rulli won the special primary with 49% of the vote to replace Johnson defeating state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus at 41% and chiropractor Rick Tsai at 10%.

Johnson resigned from Congress in January to become the president of Youngstown University. 

The razor-thin majority has empowered members of the House Freedom Caucus to hold up legislation, forcing Johnson to work with Democrats on must-pass legislation.

David Sivak and Hailey Bullis contributed to this story.