From Hogan to a Trumpier Senate: Takeways from Tuesday’s primaries

Election season continues even though the presidential primary has been decided.

In several states, such as Maryland and West Virginia (where voting took place Tuesday), voters chose candidates in crucial races that could determine the balance of power in Congress next year.

Takeaways from the primaries of Tuesday:

HOGAN – A GAME-CHANGER, OR SACRIFICIAL LAMB?

Who’s really running Congress?

Hakeem Jeffries thinks he’s in charge. He’s taking advantage of the slim margin the GOP has in the House, hampering the GOP’s conservative agenda. Well, there’s only one solution… flip Democrat-held seats like mine and grow the GOP majority in Congress this November! I’m Lt. Col. David Flippo. That’s only going to happen if you help me topple my Democrat opponent. Are you on board?

Who’s really running Congress?
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Larry Hogan, Maryland’s former Republican Governor, won the nomination of his party for the U.S. Senate Seat opened by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin’s Retirement. Hogan, unlike other Republicans in this solidly Democratic state, is not your typical Republican candidate.

Hogan was a popular governor who won many Democratic votes during his two terms. He also remained popular with a large segment of the state’s left-leaning population. Hogan is a fierce Trump critic which makes him popular with a certain segment of Democratic voters and helps to blunt the attacks from the Left. It’s because Senate Republicans were wooing him to run to fill the newly-opened seat as part of a plan to take control of the chamber away from Democrats who have a two seats majority.

Hogan and other candidates with cross-party appeal used to be staples of national politics. But they are now fading in an age where voters vote more for party lines than individual politicians. Only one senator, Maine Republican Susan Collins, won a state in the last two elections that also supported a presidential candidate from a different political party.

Recent examples of moderate, popular minority-party Governors who failed to win Senate Seats in recent Elections are a cautionary tale. This is evidence that voters will vote for their partisan politics more readily when it comes to federal offices rather than state ones. Former Democratic Governors Steve Bullock in Montana and Phil Bredesen in Tennessee ran in the 2020 and 2018 elections for Senate seats that were open in states with deep reds. Both lost badly.

In the Maryland version, Democrats who previously praised Hogan for his anti-Trump positions will paint him as an affront to abortion rights and entitlements, because he said he would caucus alongside Republicans, giving the GOP the Senate majority. Hogan may have a difficult time winning a state won by Biden by 33 percentage points.

Hogan’s arrival will still shake up the Senate map, and Democrats will be even more defensive. They must defend three seats, all in states Donald Trump won. This includes a newly-opened seat in Trump’s favorite state, West Virginia.

Hogan will be facing Angela Alsobrooks (Democrat), who won a controversial primary in which her opponent outspent her by a wide margin.

Alsobrooks, if she wins the November election, would become the first Black Senator from Maryland. Maryland has one of the biggest Black populations in the United States. Laphonza Butler, the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate currently, will step down in December when her term as a senator is up. Three Black men are currently in the chamber.

Alsobrooks defeated Rep. David Trone who spent over $61 million on his own campaign for the Democratic Senate nomination. She was able to overcome Trone’s advantage in terms of money by winning the endorsements of top Democrats from across the state, including Governor. Wes Moore and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer. She ran a campaign on expanding economic opportunities, education, and abortion rights. Trone was criticized for his donations to Republicans across the country who opposed abortion rights.

Trone, who is 68 and white, has made a few mistakes, including using a racist slur before a Black witness at a House of Representatives committee hearing. Trone claimed he had been trying to use the same-sounding words.

The Senate gets Trumpier

The biggest change in the U.S. Senate could have happened already Tuesday night when West Virginia Governor. Jim Justice has won the GOP nomination to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by retiring Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

Manchin, a centrist Democrat and lightning rod of the left and right, survived as his state shifted to the right. He was likely the only Democrat in the state who could win a senate race, and now Justice will succeed him.

This will swing the Senate in Trump’s favor, whether or not the GOP flips more seats to make it 50 senators. Trump endorsed Justice, a wealthy coal magnate-turned-Democratic politician-turned-Republican whose folksy demeanor and omnipresent English bulldog — named Babydog — endeared him to West Virginia’s voters.

Justice, like Trump, has also been surrounded by legal controversy. His firms have been sued over non-payment of debts and the tax authorities have placed liens against his properties. Justice, like Trump has deviated from GOP orthodoxy. He has embraced the Biden-signed bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is now a cornerstone in the campaign of the incumbent president. Alex Mooney, his opponent, attacked him for it, but that wasn’t enough.

Justice will be joining a Republican caucus in the senate that has become steadily Trumpier, as former critics have retired and were replaced by allies of Trump who won party primaries. It’s impossible to predict how Justice will vote on each issue. However, in this respect, he fits Trump’s mold.

The Ghost of Haley

Two months have passed since the former South Carolina governor. Nikki Haley ran for the GOP nomination for president, but she continues to get votes from Republicans that don’t want their vote for Donald Trump.

Haley, fresh off her stunning 15% vote in the Indiana Republican primary last week, received tens and thousands of votes on Tuesday in West Virginia. Maryland, an educated state near Washington, D.C., is a perfect fit for Haley’s technocratic, less ideological approach. Haley is still a strong candidate, even if her strength is not obvious.

Trump could take heed of the persistent votes for Haley. Even though the Republican Party is coalescing around him, some of his voter base wants to vote against it. It’s possible that many of these voters were already Biden supporters who voted in the GOP primaries and took pleasure in embarrassing Trump. If this is the case, then the protest vote will not have much impact in November.

Biden’s own protest campaign has targeted him for his handling of Gaza. Democrats who are disillusioned have encouraged primary voters to vote for “uncommitted”, if the option is offered. The state of Maryland was the location, but it was a relatively small percentage.

Biden was easily elected in West Virginia but about a fifth (or more) of the Democratic electorate voted for other candidates. It’s not uncommon for an incumbent Democratic President to lose a large portion of his vote in a traditionally Democratic state which has moved sharply rightward. Barack Obama won only 59% in the Democratic primaries in West Virginia in 2012.