But it did not stand alone. Progressive “Squad” member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) easily turned back a primary challenge from Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, whom Tlaib defeated by only 900 votes in 2018. Progressive Jen Richardson nearly defeated the party’s preferred candidate, state Rep. Jon Hoadley, in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District despite being outspent nearly 15 to 1. And another underfunded progressive, Eva Putzova, punched above her weight against moderate Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), who won with only 59 percent of the vote in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. The message to incumbents is clear: Move left, or risk moving out.
The Republican establishment can also take solace in the returns. Rep. Roger Marshall’s resounding primary victory for a U.S. Senate seat in Kansas means that conservative renegade Kris Kobach won’t be the GOP’s nominee in November. Kobach’s intense anti-immigrant persona had frightened many Kansans in 2018 when he was the party’s standard bearer for governor, resulting in Democrat Laura Kelly’s upset victory. Marshall will almost surely hold the seat for Team Red in the fall; Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, and nothing in his background suggests he’s a problem for the state’s normally Republican voters.
Establishment types could also take heart from a series of House primaries. Republican State Treasurer Jake LaTurner handily unseated controversial Rep. Steve Watkins in Kansas’s 2nd Congressional District. Watkins had moved to Kansas primarily to run for office in 2018, spending his way to victory in the primary and only narrowly winning the seat in the fall. LaTurner’s primary win means the GOP will likely rest easy on that seat in November.
Meanwhile, in Michigan’s 10th district, the conservative, anti-tax Club for Growth had put $1.6 million behind state representative Shane Hernandez. He lost his race to business executive and political newcomer Lisa McClain by nearly six points. Coming on the heels of the Club for Growth’s primary defeat in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District last month, it suggests that a Republican doesn’t have to toe the Club for Growth’s line to win.
Washington’s primary also holds good news for the GOP. Its top-two primary system, like California’s, puts all candidates from all parties on one ballot and sends the top two finishers regardless of party to the November general election. Also as in California, a party’s combined share of the vote in the primary is usually quite predictive of the final partisan breakdown in November, as Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball has pointed out. Washington’s all-mail election still has about roughly a quarter of the vote left to count but, so far, Republicans have 48 percent in the suburban 8th Congressional District and 55 percent in the marginal 3rd District. That compares favorably to 2018, when Republican candidates combined for nearly 47 percent in the 8th and only 51 percent in the 3rd. With all the bad news swirling around the President Trump’s reelection campaign, one might have thought the GOP vote share would drop, not stay level or go up.
Republicans of all stripes, however, need to sit up and take note of the vote to expand Medicaid in Missouri. Cook Political Report analyst Dave Wasserman pointed out on Twitter that the results tracked partisan trends by county from the midterms, with the “Yes” vote slightly exceeding Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2018 percentages in rural regions. But he also noticed the “yes” vote also significantly outperformed Democratic Senate totals in suburban and urban counties. “Yes” got eight more points on Tuesday than McCaskill did statewide in 2018, but outpaced her by between seven and 13 points in suburban St. Louis and Kansas City. It’s yet another sign that there is a significant moderate suburban vote that may lean Republican but are not conventionally conservative across the board. This demographic remains crucial to GOP hopes for victory.
Much can change between now and November, but Tuesday’s results are consistent with trends from earlier primaries. The left’s surge remains the overriding feature of 2020. Expect the fall campaign to focus on whether the electorate wants to endorse that shift on Election Day.