Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated: Wed, 18 May 2022 13:03:23 GMT
Tuesday was the biggest day of the 2022 primary season to date, with five states -- ranging from Pennsylvania in the east to Oregon in the west -- casting votes for Senate, governor and House.
I watched the results roll in -- it's still too close to call in the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary! -- and picked some of the best (and worst) of the night that was.
Let's do this!
* Mitch McConnell: A week ago, it looked like conservative activist Kathy Barnette might be the GOP's Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, which would have been a total and complete disaster for McConnell, who has emphasized the need to nominate candidates who can win over swing voters. Either TV doctor Mehmet Oz or wealthy businessman David McCormick -- Oz was leading McCormick by just over 2,000 votes Wednesday morning -- would be a credible and well-funded nominee this fall against Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. It appears McConnell can breathe a sigh of relief -- and may not have to spend as much money in the Keystone State with two very wealthy potential nominees.
* The "big lie": In maybe the most consequential result of the night, state Sen. Doug Mastriano rolled to a victory in the Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial primary. Mastriano, who would have been considered a fringe candidate (at best) even a decade ago is now the Republican nominee for governor in one of the most competitive states in the country. Mastriano is a leading proponent of election denialism and was in Washington for the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 6, 2021. The scariest part? If Mastriano wins, he would have the ability appoint Pennsylvania's secretary of state, the top election official who will oversee the 2024 election.
* Liberals: While the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania drew less attention (and money) than the Republican race, it's worth noting that Fetterman, an unapologetic liberal, crushed moderate Rep. Conor Lamb. In Oregon, liberal Jamie McLeod-Skinner holds a sizable lead over moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader -- although less than half of all votes have been counted as of Wednesday morning. It wasn't all wins for the left, as Nida Allam, who had the endorsement of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, came up short in the open seat race in North Carolina's 4th Congressional District. But overall, it was a good night for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
* Josh Shapiro: The Pennsylvania attorney general won the Democratic nod for governor without an opponent --- a feat in and of itself in a state as big as Pennsylvania. Now he gets the chance to face off against Mastriano, who has yet to demonstrate appeal beyond the hardcore Republican base, in November. Shapiro enters that race as a favorite and, if he wins, will be on a relatively short list of Democratic rising stars nationally.
* Donald Trump: It was a bit of a mixed bag for the former President on Tuesday night -- and it remains to be seen whether Oz, his pick for the Pennsylvania Senate race, can pull it off. But what the primary voting across the country reinforced is that Trump is (still) the primary mover in Republican politics. He is the sun around which all candidates -- those openly courting his endorsement and those trying to keep him at a comfortable distance -- revolve. Trump's endorsement isn't fullproof: He backed Rep. Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in Idaho, who both lost. But he also plucked North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd from obscurity to an easy victory in the state's GOP Senate primary.
* Thom Tillis: The North Carolina Republican senator was one of the leading voices in calling for Cawthorn's ouster. Tillis endorsed state Sen. Chuck Edwards and made clear that he believed Cawthorn was ill-suited to represent the state in Congress. Tillis won when Cawthorn lost.
* Ultra-MAGA: In a very short period of time, Cawthorn became one of the most prominent faces of the Trump-ing of the Republican Party. On Tuesday night, he lost his bid for another term to a conservative state senator promising to draw less national headlines to the district. In Idaho, McGeachin, a favorite of the Trump wing of the party who was endorsed by the former president, was defeated in her attempt to unseat Gov. Brad Little in a Republican primary fight. Those losses suggest that while voters seem willing to give Trump himself a pass when it comes to his personal conduct, they are less forgiving of controversial candidates who try to run under the Trump banner.
* Senate Democrats: Make no mistake: Democrats were rooting hard for the unvetted Barnette to win the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania. While both Oz and McCormick have their own weaknesses for Democrats to attack, neither one is as unknown as Barnette. Plus in North Carolina, Budd's strong showing over a credible challenger in McCrory suggests that flipping the seat currently held by retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr may be more difficult than Democrats initially thought.
* Pat McCrory: The former North Carolina governor started the open seat Senate race with a lot of advantages. As of Wednesday morning, he was trailing Budd by more than 30 points, garnering less than 25% of the total vote in the Republican primary. That's a remarkably poor showing for a candidate who spent four years last decade as the top elected official in the state.
*Crypto: Cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried spent more than $11 million in support of Carrick Flynn's candidacy in the Democratic primary for Oregon's 6th Congressional District, who lost. With roughly half the vote in, Flynn captured only 19% of the vote, well behind state Rep. Andrea Salinas, who CNN projected as the winner.