It’s not a great year to be a House Republican running for higher office.

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador lost his bid for Idaho governor on Tuesday, meaning four of six House Republicans have lost primaries for statewide office so far.

Representative Rep. State Running for Result/ primary date
Luke Messer Ind. U.S. Senate lost (May 8)
Todd Rokita Ind. U.S. Senate lost (May 8)
James B. Renacci Ohio U.S. Senate won (May 8)
Evan Jenkins W.Va. U.S. Senate lost (May 8)
Raúl R. Labrador Idaho Governor lost (May 15)
Lou Barletta Pa. U.S. Senate won (May 15)
Stevan Pearce N.M. Governor June 5
Kristi L. Noem S.D. Governor June 5
Kevin Cramer N.D. U.S. Senate June 12
Diane Black Tenn. Governor Aug. 2
Marsha Blackburn Tenn. U.S. Senate Aug. 2
Martha McSally Ariz. U.S. Senate Aug. 28
Ron DeSantis Fla. Governor Aug. 28

Despite efforts to tie themselves to President Trump, all except Rep. James B. Renacci of Ohio and Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania — a staunch Trump supporter who won the Senate nomination on Tuesday — were felled by the anti-Washington fervor that has remained a potent force in Republican contests.

Labrador, a co-founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, lost a contentious primary to longtime state politician Lt. Gov. Brad Little. Little will probably replace retiring Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in the strongly Republican state that is experiencing tremendous economic and population growth.

The first Republican incumbent also fell earlier this month when Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), a three-term incumbent, lost his primary to a former pastor.

In another race, Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita of Indiana both lost their Senate bids to businessman Mike Braun, a former state lawmaker whose self-financed campaign emphasized his Washington outsider status. Both had left safely Republican districts.

Including Barletta’s challenge to Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., there are 10 races in which Republicans are hoping to win seats held by Democrats in states Trump won. The May primaries have provided a first glimpse into who Republicans will pick to try to regain those seats.

Senator Challenger/ primary date State Trump margin
Manchin Morissey W.Va. +41.7
Heitkamp June 12 N.D. +35.7
Tester June 5 Mont. +20.2
Donnelly Braun Ind. +19.0
McCaskill Aug. 7 Mo. +18.5
Brown Renacci Ohio +8.1
Nelson Aug. 28 Fla. +1.2
Baldwin Aug. 14 Wis. +0.8
Casey Jr. Barletta Pa. +0.7
Stabenow Aug. 7 Mich. +0.2

Both of the successful House Republican climbers took winding paths to their races. At the beginning of this year, Renacci shifted his plans when Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel dropped out of the Senate race. Barletta, a former mayor known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, was asked to run by Trump.

Outsider credentials did have limits. Republican leaders’ worst fears were avoided in West Virginia, where state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey will face Sen. Joe Manchin III. Don Blankenship, a divisive coal executive who served one year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety laws, appeared to have momentum in the campaign’s final days. He placed a distant third. Rep. Evan Jenkins placed second.

Party strategists thought the candidates voters selected that day would be worthy opponents to sitting Democratic senators.


Trump won by 19 points

Sen. Donnelly




Donnelly has tried to show that he can work with Trump. Braun will need to consolidate Republican support after a bruising primary.


Trump by 8

Sen. Brown



Rep. Renacci

Brown is considered one of the safer Democrats in Trump states, given his reputation as a fighter for the working class.


Trump by less than 1

Sen. Casey



Rep. Barletta

Casey has won five statewide elections and has a big cash advantage over Barletta. Casey has already singled out Barletta’s hard-line views on illegal immigration.

West Virginia

Trump by 42

Sen. Manchin




Manchin is popular and has tried to cultivate a nonpartisan image, but West Virginia is one of the country’s most pro-Trump states.

The lackluster results so far could be cause for concern for other House Republicans running for higher office in the coming weeks and months.

Rep. Martha McSally (Ariz.), who is leaving behind a competitive House seat, faces two outsider candidates — Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former state senator Kelli Ward — in her quest to become her state’s Senate nominee. Reps. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Kevin Cramer (N.D.) face less competition in their primaries but will have competitive general election matchups.

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Kevin Schaul and Reuben Fischer-Baum contributed to this report.

About this story

Election dates from AP, 2016 election results from Decision Desk HQ. Retirements from House Press Gallery and news reports.

Originally published May 9, 2018.

Senator images via Government Printing Office. Renacci and Barletta from Getty, Braun from AP, Morrisey from Bloomberg News.


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