(The Hill) – Tuesday was the most dramatic primary night so far this election cycle.
High-profile battles were fought in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, while voters in Idaho, Kentucky and Oregon also went to the polls.
The night’s marquee contest — the GOP Senate primary in Pennsylvania — has yet to be decided, with TV personality Mehmet Oz and businessman David McCormick only a hair’s breadth apart in the early hours of Wednesday.
Here are the big winners and losers so far.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman
Fetterman was the clearest winner of the night — from his hospital bed.
Fetterman, 52, suffered a stroke on Friday and had a pacemaker device fitted on Tuesday. The candidate says he did not incur any “cognitive damage” from his stoke.
His health drama appears to have had no negative impact on his electoral performance. With almost 90 percent of returns in by midnight, Fetterman had racked up more than twice as many votes as his closest rival, Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.).
It was a striking victory for Fetterman, whose unorthodox appeal is underlined by his shaven-headed appearance and fondness for dressing in shorts and hoodies.
Fetterman leans toward the more progressive side of the Democratic Party, so his victory gave the left a much-needed boost.
He will have to wait to see whom he will face in November, but his margin of victory on Tuesday demonstrates striking enthusiasm for his candidacy among his party’s base.
Another of the more emphatic results of the night was notched up by state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who became the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania.
Mastriano has trafficked in false claims of fraud in the 2020 election and came to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, though he has said he did not enter the Capitol itself.
After the election, but before the insurrection, Mastriano had pushed for an alternate slate of electors to be appointed by the state legislature in Pennsylvania — a move that would likely have overturned the election result in the state had it been successful.
Democrats’ alarm about Mastriano’s beliefs is leavened by their confidence that their nominee, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, can defeat the Republican in November.
Still, Mastriano’s victory underlines, one more time, just how the fictions propagated by former President Trump have been mainstreamed among Republican voters.
Perhaps that should be no surprise: An Economist/YouGov poll last week indicated that 76 percent of GOP voters believe President Biden was not the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.
There are some results still to come but Tuesday was shaping up to be a solid night for the left of the Democratic Party.
In addition to Fetterman’s victory, an even more left-wing candidate, Summer Lee, was holding onto a lead, albeit a minuscule one, against the more centrist Steve Irwin in a House primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th district.
Early returns from the Democratic primary in Oregon’s 5th district — which could still change — showed progressive favorite Jamie McLeod-Skinner pulling ahead of incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader.
If McLeod-Skinner pulls off the victory, it will be cause for jubilation on the left — and embarrassment at the White House. President Biden endorsed Schrader.
Sen. Thom Tillis and GOP House leadership
Controversial Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) was defeated in his primary by state Sen. Chuck Edwards (R), despite having been endorsed by Trump.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) had supported Edwards, a remarkable and risky intervention that ultimately paid off.
There won’t be too many tears shed among GOP leaders in Washington over Cawthorn’s loss either.
Cawthorn was a headache for GOP leadership, sparking furors ranging from the emergence of photos of him dressed in women’s lingerie to his assertion that he had been invited to orgies.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said after the latter controversy that he had told the freshman congressman he had “lost my trust.”
Former President Trump
Tuesday was a mixed night at best for Trump.
Cawthorn’s defeat was one blow.
Another came with the uncertainty in the Pennsylvania Senate primary. Trump backed Oz there. Even if the TV personality prevails in the end, it will be by the skin of his teeth.
Trump can point to other, more favorable results.
In North Carolina, his pick in the GOP Senate primary, Rep. Ted Budd, won with consummate ease over former Gov. Pat McCrory.
Trump left it very late to endorse Mastriano in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary— but Mastriano is cut from very Trump-like cloth.
Overall, it was a night that saw Trump’s hold on the GOP appear not quite so solid as previously thought.
Democratic general election hopes
Democrats had hoped that conservative commentator Kathy Barnette’s late surge in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary would propel her to victory.
Most Democratic insiders believed Barnette, with her history of inflammatory statements and scant political experience, would be the easiest candidate to defeat in November.
Instead, they have wound up with either McCormick or Oz, who are likely to be tougher adversaries.
On the other hand, Democrats believe Mastriano’s wide victory in the gubernatorial race gives them a real opening there.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.)
The 26-year-old congressman’s defeat was one of the biggest headlines of the night.
The dynamics behind that defeat have been mentioned above, but it was still a remarkable fall for the pro-Trump provocateur.
He can easily find a prominent place in the conservative media firmament if he wants one, post-Congress. But a primary defeat before his first term is out must surely be a bitter pill nevertheless.
Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.)
Just four years ago, Lamb was a rising star in the Democratic Party.
In 2018, he won a special election in a Republican-leaning district to become a congressman at the age of just 33.
At the time, Lamb’s ideological moderation and military record — he served in the Marine Corps — was perceived to be an ideal recipe to win competitive districts.
But the congressman never gained traction in the Senate race this year.
Some blamed the fact that he entered the race six months after Fetterman. But it also seemed as if Democratic primary voters simply weren’t buying the conventional centrism that Lamb represents.
The Associated Press called the race for Fetterman less than an hour after polls closed — an embarrassing loss for Lamb, given his previously elevated reputation.
Barnette looked like the woman of the moment in the final stretch of the GOP Pennsylvania Senate primary.
Her momentum appeared so pronounced that there were real prospects of a Barnette victory as Tuesday dawned.
In the end, she didn’t come particularly close.
Tuesday’s results — and the lack of results in some places — made it tougher than normal to draw clear lessons.
- Manchin throwing a wrench into Democrats’ push for broader gun control
- Senate GOP resists calls for gun control after Buffalo shooting
Trump’s endorsement mattered some places — but not in others.
An ultra-MAGA approach was Mastriano’s ticket to victory — but not enough for Barnette.
Ultimately, the night was a reminder that candidates, and the dynamics of each individual race, can matter as much as the big national trends.