Since the beginning of June, President Trump’s been on a remarkable political run. There have been 11 contests in which he’s made an endorsement, and in each of those 11 races his preferred candidate has won. Sure, some of the candidates would have won without Trump’s weighing in, like Kevin Cramer in North Dakota, who won by more than 75 points. But in some, like Brian Kemp’s race in Georgia, it certainly seems as if Trump played a role, despite the wide margin.
(Because California uses a top-two primary system, John Cox’s winning effort to make the general election lacks a good point of comparison to show his margin of victory.)
It’s important to note one thing that all of those races have in common: They were all Republican primary contests. In other words, Trump’s batting 11-for-11 since June in races where only members of his party can vote. Since he took office, he has backed the winning candidate in 11 of 12 primary matchups.
The problem for Trump is that his track record in non-primaries is much worse. He has endorsed in four Democrat-vs.-Republican matchups as president — and lost three of the four. The only one in which his endorsed candidate won was Rep. Karen Handel’s special election victory in Georgia in June of last year. His endorsed candidates for Virginia governor, Alabama Senate and a special House race in Pennsylvania all lost.
And not only did they lose, but they also underperformed his own percentages in those districts. Handel did slightly better than Trump in that Georgia race, but the other three candidates did between four and 30 percentage points worse.
A central difference, of course, is that Trump is very popular among Republicans — and quite unpopular among Americans overall. About 9 in 10 Republicans think he’s doing a good job while a bit north of 4 in 10 Americans overall agree. Trump’s word carries a lot of weight with that former group. Less so the latter.
Over the course of 2017, before his endorsement of Roy Moore in Alabama turned into a debacle for the ages, Trump would regularly tout how well Republicans were doing in special elections. Trump tweeted about being 4-and-O (that’s the letter O) because Republicans won Handel’s case and three other House races in which he didn’t endorse. (He would ignore a House race that the Democrats won in California.) In each case except Handel, the Republican candidate fared far worse against the Democratic candidate than Trump himself had done in 2016.
“They keep talking about this blue wave,” Trump said during a rally in North Dakota in June, referring to predictions that Democrats would fare well in November. “Their blue wave is really sputtering pretty badly. The red wave is happening. Just look what happened last night.”
What happened the night before is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won an upset victory in the Democratic primary in a New York House district. There’s little doubt that she’ll go on to serve that district in Congress next year. Beyond that, it’s not clear what big victory Trump was referring to.
He did, however, tweet gloatingly about the man Ocasio-Cortez beat, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).
Had Crowley been disrespectful to Trump while running as a Republican, that argument might make more sense.
The label for the x-axis on the charts has been corrected.