Can Trump-like candidates succeed without his blessing? We'll find out tonight.
Posted June 26, 2018 9:03 a.m. EDT
(CNN) — President Donald Trump has put his neck on the line for this week's primaries. He's made two big endorsements in New York and South Carolina races.
But unlike many of his endorsements (such as businessman John Cox in California or Katie Arrington in South Carolina), it's not clear he is putting his name behind the most Trump-like candidate in any of the races.
This makes me wonder: Are Republican primary voters more interested in Trump's seal of approval? Or do they care more about nominating candidates who match the Trump profile?
Put another way, are Republican primary voters more attracted to Trump's brand or for what he stands for. Are they attracted to Trump in particular, or are they looking for non-traditional outsiders who are going to shake things up?
There haven't been many instances of Trump getting behind candidates who didn't fit his mold. Perhaps, the most high-profile example is when he endorsed then-Sen. Luther Strange in the Republican primary for the Alabama special Senate election. Primary voters selected the more Trump-like Roy Moore to be their nominee. (Moore, of course, went down in the general election.)
On Tuesday, Trump's endorsement may mean more given these races tend to be lower profile.
In New York's 11th Congressional District, voters are choosing between Rep. Dan Donovan and former Rep. Michael Grimm. Trump endorsed the current representative (Donovan). He did so even though Donovan has voted against the President more often than most Republican members of the House. This includes a vote against the President's tax reform bill.
Grimm, on the other hand, embodies Trump in many ways. He's a fast-talking New Yorker who lobs insults with the best of them. Grimm couldn't name a single issue on which he disagreed with Trump when I spoke to him.
The polling here is mixed. If Donovan does win, Trump's endorsement may have made the difference. If Grimm succeeds, this race becomes a toss-up in the fall.
In the South Carolina governor's race, Trump is behind Gov. Henry McMaster in his primary runoff against businessman John Warren. This endorsement is all about loyalty for Trump, as McMaster was one of the first politicians to endorse Trump during the 2016 campaign.
Warren though is more like Trump. He's a businessman who has never held elected office. That compares with McMaster who has been running for political office for more than 30 years.
Polling here is, again, mixed. McMaster has led in the only nonpartisan public polling. Warren's campaign released polling showing him ahead, but, as always, take that with a major grain of salt. McMaster is probably the favorite given he got many more votes than Warren in the primary, but either candidate could win.
The most likely contest where a Trump-endorsed candidate who is clearly a non-Trump Republican is likely to win on Tuesday is the Utah Senate primary. There former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is a heavy favorite over the far more pro-Trump Mike Kennedy. Romney's likely victory though probably doesn't say much for Trump's popularity in Utah. Rather, the ability for Romney to emerge victorious is an indication of Romney's personal brand in the state as well as how anti-Trump Utah is compared to other Republican states.