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The most interesting Republican primaries of 2022

Donald Trump endorsed candidates at a rally in North Carolina. (Erin Siegal/Reuters)
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Republicans have a good shot at taking back both chambers of Congress in November’s midterm elections.

But they could rise or fall based on who the party chooses in primary elections this spring and summer. “How could you screw this up? It’s actually possible,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently warned his party. (The Senate is split 50-50, and Democrats hold the majority in the House by just a few seats.)

Even in safe races Republicans expect to win this November, the real drama is playing out in the primaries. In many of these contests, former president Donald Trump has put his reputation at stake by endorsing unconventional candidates and pursuing vendettas against members of his party who bucked him while he was president.

Here are the most interesting Republican primaries to watch. (And here are the most interesting Democratic ones.)

Ohio: This might be the year’s most contentious primary. In Ohio, a state Trump won twice, Republicans can grab a rare open Senate seat. For months, the former president stayed out of the primary and watched as the candidates tried to out-Trump each other with controversial statements. On Friday, he endorsed “Hillbilly Elegy” author and former Trump critic J.D. Vance, even though, according to Washington Post reporting, some of Trump’s own advisers wanted him to choose former state GOP chair Jane Timken or former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel, whom they view as more electable statewide. “It is all about winning!” Trump said in a statement in which he acknowledged Vance’s anti-Trump past and asserting that the candidate gets it now. (Vance went so far to the right that he won the backing of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican provocateur who represents Georgia.) The primary is May 3.

The 2022 election calendar

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania, as a swing state, could determine which party controls the Senate next year — and Trump made another endorsement unpopular with his party when he backed TV doctor Mehmet Oz for its open seat. The first candidate Trump endorsed dropped out over domestic abuse allegations. Skipping over a much more traditional candidate, former hedge fund manager David McCormick, to endorse Oz is another risky move. Oz’s candidacy was originally treated as a joke by establishment Republicans, and opponents could mine his years of controversial medical statements. “I’m a gambler,” Trump told an adviser, report The Post’s Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer. The primary is May 17.

Georgia governor and secretary of state: In Georgia, Trump is focused on proving that the Republican Party supports his false claims of election fraud. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) refused to help Trump overturn his 2020 loss in the state, so Trump endorsed Kemp’s challenger, former Republican senator David Perdue. (Perdue lost his seat in the 2021 runoff — a loss GOP Senate leaders blame on Trump and his fraud claims.) For secretary of state, Trump is backing a congressman willing to elevate his false fraud claims, Rep. Jody Hice — unlike the incumbent, Brad Raffensperger. The primary is May 24.

How Trump-backed secretary of state candidates would change elections

North Carolina: Trump picked the underdog in North Carolina’s open Senate race — a seat Republicans probably need to hold to take back the majority. He endorsed Rep. Ted Budd over candidates including North Carolina’s former governor, Pat McCrory. But Trump’s riskier endorsement in the state is for Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s reelection. Trump backed Cawthorn at a recent rally. After Cawthorn alleged that D.C. leaders used cocaine and invited him to an orgy, top Republicans started actively supporting one of his challengers, state Sen. Chuck Edwards. The primary is May 17.

Alaska: Alaska has an open primary — meaning candidates compete against each other regardless of party — but the Republicans are the ones to watch. Sarah Palin is running for Alaska’s lone congressional seat. She is one of the best-known politicians in the country and has Trump’s endorsement — but it’s not a given that she’ll win. “I think maybe she left us behind somewhere on the way to fame,” a Republican voter told The Post’s Libby Casey. Trump also endorsed Kelly Tshibaka to challenge Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who voted to convict Trump after the House impeached him for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Murkowski is still competitive in part because of Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system, which rewards less-partisan candidates. The special primary for the open House seat is June 11; the rest of Alaska’s primaries are Aug. 16.

Beyond Palin, here's why Alaska's elections are so interesting this year

Liz Cheney and the impeachment Republicans: Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Four have retired, but six are running for reelection, and Trump is propping up primary challengers against all of them. (Trump recently bragged to The Post that one of the six, Tom Rice, “is getting crushed in South Carolina.”) His top target is Cheney in Wyoming, who has been kicked out of House GOP leadership for her role in the Jan. 6 investigation. Wyoming’s primary is Aug. 16.

Alabama: There are few Republican politicians who championed Trump’s false 2020 fraud claims as much as Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who is running for an open Senate seat. He had Trump’s endorsement — until Trump revoked it, complaining that Brooks wanted to focus too much on future elections rather than look back on 2020 (which is often the code GOP politicians use when they don’t agree with Trump’s false claims). Now Brooks is trying to win without Trump, against well-funded (yet less Trumpian) opponents Katie Britt and Mike Durant. The primary is May 24.

Idaho governor: This is an under-the-radar race, but Trump made a bold and odd move by endorsing Idaho’s No. 2, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, to challenge Idaho’s No. 1, Gov. Brad Little. Little has taken no public stand against Trump. The only clue we have is that McGeachin has tried to remove coronavirus restrictions when Little goes out of state, only to have Little reverse them when he returns. Unseating a governor is one of the hardest things to do in politics, but Trump is going to try. (In another red state’s race for governor, Trump is campaigning for a controversial candidate: Charles Herbster, who is running in Nebraska and has been accused of sexual assault.) Idaho’s primary is May 17.

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