Primaries in four states Tuesday — Minnesota, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Vermont — set up competitive governor’s, Senate and House races across the country this November. But even before then, these primaries identified some clear winners and losers that reinforced trends we’ve been seeing all year. Here they are:
Trump: At least in Republican primary politics, Tuesday once again proved he’s the king. Republican politicians on the ballot Tuesday who dissed him in 2016 raced to undo that, and those who didn’t do it convincingly enough lost their primaries. In Minnesota’s competitive governor’s race, Republican voters nominated a relative outsider, Jeff Johnson, over a former governor, Tim Pawlenty, as Pawlenty struggled to get out from under the fact he called Trump “unhinged and unfit” during the campaign. (Johnson has his own past problems with Trump, which we’ll get to in the loser section.) “The Republican Party has shifted,” Pawlenty said as he lost. “It is the era of Trump, and I’m just not a Trump-like politician.”
Trump’s riskiest endorsement yet, in last week’s GOP Kansas governor’s primary, paid off Tuesday, too. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded an ultra-close race to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped lead Trump’s voter fraud commission.
Diversity: For the first time, voters of a major party nominated an openly transgender woman for governor. Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination for governor in Vermont (though she’ll have to work hard to actually make that race against Gov. Phil Scott (R) competitive). In Connecticut, Democrat Jahana Hayes won her primary for Congress and is set to become the first black woman to represent New England in the House. In Minnesota, Democrat Ilhan Omar is one of two candidates who won primaries in the past two weeks vying to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.
And Wisconsin’s Senate race in November will, for the first time, feature two women.
Candidates with arrest records and alleged #MeToo perpetrators: Once again, 2018 is proving that politicians can be accused of — or admit — behaving badly and win elections. The felon on the ballot Tuesday, a Connecticut mayor running for governor, didn’t win. But in Wisconsin, an admitted drunk driver did. Democrat Randy Bryce, an iron worker who has raised millions to try to take the seat of retiring House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R) in November, won his primary. In Minnesota, Rep. Keith Ellison (D) won his nomination for attorney general while denying accusations that he abused a former girlfriend.
Connecticut Republicans: It sounds counterintuitive to say a governor’s race in Connecticut would be among the most competitive races in the country this November. But that is exactly what appears to be shaping up after Tuesday. Both Democrats and Republicans nominated the candidates they wanted for this open seat (Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, both wealthy business executives). Departing Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy is one of the most unpopular politicians in America, so Republicans feel they have a real shot to seize this governor’s mansion.
Republican consistency on Trump: Any Republican on the ballot Tuesday who didn’t particularly like Trump in 2016 (or now) needed to pivot quickly. In Wisconsin, state Sen. Leah Vukmir did just that as she won her primary to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). She called him “offensive to everyone” during the campaign but endorsed him after he won the primary.
And the night’s big winner, Johnson in Minnesota’s GOP governor’s primary, had attacked Trump as a “jackass” during the campaign. But he successfully argued that, like Vukmir, he came around to supporting the president.
Gov. Scott Walker (R), who didn’t have a competitive primary Tuesday but will have a competitive reelection in November, has twisted himself into a pretzel on whether he supports Trump’s tariff policy, which has ensnared Wisconsin’s Harley-Davidson.
Republicans' chances in governor’s races in Minnesota and Kansas: The Trumpier candidate won in each of these races, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for Republicans' chances in November.
In Kansas, Washington Republicans aren’t happy that Kobach won. They feel that his inflammatory politics gives Democrats a leg up to take that governor’s mansion. They’re even less thrilled with Minnesota’s results. The Republican Governors Association had reserved $3 million to $4 million in ads for the general election, but that could be in jeopardy now that a lesser-known candidate, Johnson, is the nominee.
People who don’t want white nationalists running for Congress: He lost, by a lot, but in the Republican primary to replace Ryan in Wisconsin, self-described “pro-white” nationalist candidate Paul Nehlen got 11 percent of Republican turnout on Tuesday. That’s about 6,500 votes for a guy who was banned from Twitter for racist posts.
Billionaires: In Wisconsin’s Republican Senate primary, both candidates were boosted by billionaires willing to throw millions at the race. In the end, someone had to win (Vukmir). The loser was Kevin Nicholson, a former Democrat who paradoxically was boosted by one of the most conservative billionaires active in U.S. politics, Richard Uihlein. Some $8 million in spending for Nicholson’s failed election can be tied back Uihlein. His chosen candidate in a Republican primary for a competitive House race in Minnesota also lost Tuesday.