The results of Tuesday’s primary elections in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, among other races, should put to rest any lingering doubts about former president Donald Trump’s continuing sway within the Republican Party and his ability to put candidates he favors across the finish line, political analysts and strategists said.
Although opinion on the issue is not unanimous, results in this week’s races have been highly favorable to some Trump-endorsed candidates.
In North Carolina’s primary race, for the nomination to run in November for the seat of retiring Sen. Richard Burr, Trump-backed Rep. Ted Budd achieved a massive victory. By Wednesday afternoon, with more than 95 percent of precincts having reported, Budd had secured 445,343 votes, or 58.6 percent of the total cast, well more than twice the 186,760 votes, or 28.6 percent, that went to his nearest competitor, former governor Pat McCrory.
“Budd ran a fine campaign with a lot of support in addition to Trump’s endorsement. Then he started to believe he was going to win, and he started talking about policy. So that was a shift, and it seemed to me that McCrory just collapsed as a candidate,” said John Aldrich, a professor of political science at Duke University.
“It was a surprise because you would have expected McCrory to do pretty decently, though he was also a problematic candidate because he shifted around a lot” on the issues, Aldrich added.
In Aldrich’s view, the leading issues in the election were the cultural ones that tend to resonate with socially conservative Republican voters generally, such as the debate over critical race theory and which books will be assigned in schools. McCrory was not on the right side of these issues, Aldrich said. But the continuing salience of these topics as campaign issues does not pave the way for anyone in a crowded field where GOP candidates are likely to say many of the same things. Rather, Aldrich believes that the endorsement of Trump was decisive in securing the overwhelming victory for Budd.