Trump hits another snag: 6 takeaways from a big primary night
Another round of Republicans on Donald Trump’s hit list survived on Tuesday, while in San Francisco, a progressive prosecutor didn’t. But that’s not all we learned from Tuesday’s primaries in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.
It also looks like Democrats have a turnout problem in California, the biggest and bluest state of them all. And while Iowa’s primaries didn’t reveal anything about the 2024 presidential contest, the state next door South Dakota might have.
Here are six takeaways from a primary night where California.
Trump hits another snag a big primary night
three hours behind the East Coast and legendary for taking its time counting votes still has contests up in the air:
How to buck Trump and live to tell the tale
Two weeks after Donald Trump was humiliated in Georgia’s primaries, a lower-profile collection of Republicans on Tuesday were putting a finer point on the limitations of Trump’s influence over the GOP.
It’s still enormous, of course. But five of the 35 House Republicans who voted to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol appeared on ballots on Tuesday. And all of them appear to have survived to fight another day.
In Mississippi, Rep. Michael Guest was narrowly trailing a Trumpian challenger, Michael Cassidy, who hit Guest directly for his vote for the commission. With 89 percent of the expected vote in, he appeared headed to a June 28 runoff. And it was too early in California to see how Rep. David Valadao, who bucked Trump to vote for both impeachment and the Jan. 6 commission, will fare.
For the most part, Republicans who crossed Trump were not suffering for their infidelity.
In Iowa, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks ran unopposed. In South Dakota, Rep. Dusty Johnson drubbed his hard-line challenger, Taffy Howard. And in New Jersey, where Trump once sought to encourage a primary challenge to Rep. Chris Smith, the veteran incumbent beat back a challenge from Mike Crispi, a Republican podcast host backed by Roger Stone. [One inspired headline from the state on Tuesday night read in part, “Crispi creamed by Smith.”]
It was little better for Trump beyond the House five. In South Dakota, Sen. John Thune, who infuriated Trump when he said his effort to overturn the 2020 election would “go down like a shot dog,” thrashed the also-rans who challenged him.
“[Thune’s] a popular incumbent that is very connected to his state and is conservative,” said one South Dakota Republican familiar with both the Thune and Johnson campaigns. The Republican said that mattered more than “the bloviating from Florida.”
As for what Tuesday said about Trump’s influence on the party, Bob Heckman, a Republican consultant who has worked on nine presidential campaigns, said, “I think the jury’s out now, and it wasn’t before.”
“If I were a candidate, I’d certainly rather have Trump’s endorsement than opposing me, but there’s a lot of other factors beyond that,” said Heckman, a close friend of Smith. “Before, it was perceived to be a done deal that Trump could kill you, and now it’s not so clear.”
Democrats have a turnout problem
Democrats began worrying last week about their turnout problem in California, which was lagging last year’s gubernatorial recall by several million votes.
It looked even worse on primary day. According to the California-based political data firm Political Data Inc., about 3.3. million ballots had been returned by early morning Tuesday, far less than at the same point last year.
Primary turnout has traditionally not been a good predictor of general election turnout. One explanation for the lack of interest in Tuesday’s primary is that the races in California were simply too boring to care.
But California is not an insignificant state for Democrats. It’s a bastion of progressivism that has bent over backwards to enact policies making it easier for people to vote. For Democrats already confronting a bleak midterm election landscape nationally, any sign of apathy there is reason for concern.
California-based Doug Herman, who was a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, said it “portends turnout trouble for the fall if the primary [turnout] is this low.”
He said, “It is a red flag for sure.”
A brushback for liberal prosecutors
It wasn’t so long ago that progressive prosecutors were the hottest thing on the left.
There was Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, George Gascón in Los Angeles and Kim Foxx in Cook County, Ill. Progressives wanted to overhaul the criminal justice system, and they targeted district attorney races to do it.
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But in a sign of how quickly politics is shifting around criminal justice this year, the movement took a major hit on Tuesday. In San Francisco, one of the nation’s most progressive enclaves, Chesa Boudin was recalled — down by a margin of more than 20 percentage points as returns came in.
A former deputy public defender, Boudin had become a leader in criminal justice reform efforts nationwide. But amid a surge in violent crime nationally, even voters in San Francisco had enough.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin looks on during a news conference.
San Francisco district attorney ousted in recall election
BY JEREMY B. WHITE
The movement is far from dead. In New Mexico, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez, who was a beneficiary in 2016 of mega-donor George Soros’ effort to elevate reform-minded prosecutors, won his primary on Tuesday for state attorney general.
San Francisco isn’t going to become any less Democratic after Boudin’s ouster, either. The city’s Democratic mayor, London Breed, isn’t likely to appoint a law-and-order Republican to the seat.
But ever since it became clear that Boudin was on his way out, progressives in California and elsewhere have been grimacing. His defeat will embolden critics of criminal justice reform, not only among Republicans, but moderate Democrats, as well.
Kristi Noem’s flex
The most interesting thing about the 2024 presidential primary wasn’t anything that happened in Tuesday’s primaries in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Rather, it was what Kristi Noem did in South Dakota, one state over.
Noem, the South Dakota governor and potential presidential or vice presidential contender, was never in any real danger of losing reelection. But to say she’s had a turbulent first term would be an understatement. Noem infuriated conservatives when she waffled on legislation to ban transgender women and girls from playing women’s sports, and she frustrated them again when she delayed a highly politicized review of the state’s social studies standards. Then there was the controversy surrounding Corey Lewandowski, the adviser Noem cut loose following accusations he made unwanted sexual advances toward a woman at a charity event last year.