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Trump Appoints His First Impeachment Target: Five Key Lessons From a Pivotal Primary Night

In South Carolina, the first House Republican to vote for Donald Trump’s impeachment and then face a Trump-endorsed rival in a primary paid the price. Maine set the stage for a rematch between Trump and Biden in 2024. And a large section of southern Texas, which is mainly Latino, swung right.

With primaries on Tuesday in South Carolina, Nevada, North Dakota, and Maine, the midterm primary schedule has now covered nearly half of the states.

Here are five key lessons from a night that put Trump’s authority, incumbency, and right-wing anti-establishment passion to the test:

Impeachment is a lethal weapon.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this year’s primaries, it’s that Trump isn’t unbeatable.

In Georgia, both Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger defeated Trump-backed rivals. In last week’s primaries, a few House Republicans who voted to create a bipartisan commission to examine the Capitol incident on Jan. 6 were re-elected. In South Carolina, Rep. Nancy Mace was running ahead of her Trump-backed opponent on Tuesday, despite her criticisms of the previous president.

However, if there is a limit to how far a Republican can go against Trump, the other carefully watched House contest in South Carolina looked to expose it. Representative Tom Rice, who voted to impeach Trump and never stopped criticising him, lost his primary to Trump-backed state Rep. Russell Fry.

Rice received almost a quarter of the vote in the coastal district he has represented for a decade, 17 months after voting to impeach. Rice stated that he is at peace with his impeachment vote and intends to inspire others to stand up to Trump, although he may not have succeeded.

The outcome is bleak for the remaining House candidates who voted to impeach Trump and have not yet retired. Rice and his family endured personal agony, death threats, and hate mail, only to suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of a Trump-backed rival. Few people would wish to follow in his footsteps.

Rice, on the other hand, may have been in worse shape than many of the other impeachment candidates. Reps. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) all have districts that are somewhat moderate and could support their choice. All-party primaries are also held by Herrera Beutler and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), which could provide some protection.

Rice had to deal with an enraged GOP base with little time to prepare.

One South Carolina Republican acquainted with the Mace and Rice campaigns remarked, “He voted to impeach, and Mace did not.”

Trump is now the establishment.

Adam Laxalt received Trump’s support as well as that of a slew of other major national Republican leaders and organisations, and he may be fine in his attempt to represent Nevada in the Senate.

Whatever the final tally, it wasn’t supposed to be this difficult for a former state attorney general with a political background.

The Nevada Republican Party endorsed Sam Brown, a wounded Afghanistan veteran and anti-establishment outsider, in the spring, forcing Laxalt and his allies to scramble.

The Club for Growth has spent nearly $750,000 on television advertising criticising Brown in the previous three weeks in an attempt to shore up Laxalt’s Republican support. Laxalt recruited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Nevada to campaign with him, and he received Trump’s support in the form of a tele-town hall last week.

Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt stands in line to speak at a campaign event in Las Vegas on June 11, 2022. | Photo by John Locher/Associated Press

Despite Laxalt’s national celebrity, he and Brown raised similar sums throughout the primary, with Brown succeeding with small-dollar donations.

While Trump’s popularity among Nevada Republicans remains high — according to the latest Nevada Independent survey, 89 per cent of Republican voters there approve of him – he isn’t expected to sweep most GOP primary fields in 2022.

Maine is gearing up for a Trump-Biden preview.

Few states will provide a better preview of a prospective Joe Biden-Donald Trump rematch in 2024 than Maine, which will hold its gubernatorial election on Tuesday.


Paul LePage, the former Republican governor who is running against Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, is the kind of brash, vulgarity-prone politician who told former President Barack Obama to ” go to hell ” and blamed the state’s heroin epidemic on drug dealers with names like ” D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty ” who come to Maine and leave after impregnating a “young white girl,” according to LePage.

He claims to have been “Donald Trump before Donald Trump.”

Mills, on the other hand, isn’t that.

“I’m not sure what the correct word is for LePage’s attitude toward government. “Perhaps flamboyant?” said David Farmer, a Democratic political operator who served as deputy chief of staff to Gov. John Baldacci, LePage’s predecessor. “There’s a lot of hostility.” There are a lot of headlines. And, in a way, Mills has governed without drama, similar to Biden.”

“We’re seeing those forces clash again, just like at the national level,” he said.

Paul LePage, the Republican governor candidate, speaks to reporters outside Dysart’s Restaurant and Pub in Bangor, Maine, on Thursday, May 19, 2022. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Maine’s election will not draw a perfect line from now through 2024. Mills has a higher approval rating than Biden among the general public.

It’s only one state, after all. However, the cost of living and inflation is weighing on Mainers just as much as they are on voters nationwide. And now that the primary is over, we’re getting a glimpse of how Republicans will campaign against an incumbent president.

Mills is being pummelling by LePage, just as Trump is by Biden, for the health of the economy.

And, in a reminder that the culture wars aren’t going away anytime soon, Republicans are running advertisements blasting Mills for a video on the state Department of Education website of a teacher discussing transgender identification to kindergarten students.

In Texas, the Democrats have suffered a setback.

On Tuesday night, House Republicans made significant progress in their drive to turn South Texas red, winning a predominantly Latino — and historically Democratic — district. Mayra Flores, a Republican, will be the first woman to represent her South Texas district in modern history.

The Democrats’ nightmare is twofold in this situation. Their razor-thin House majority has lost a key seat, placing a damper on their ability to pass legislation for the rest of the year.

However, Republicans have gained significant traction in a key region that they intend to target in the fall.

In 2020, South Texas swung heavily to the right, backed by Trump’s popularity in the region. This race proves that it wasn’t a one-time occurrence. Flores has a substantial lead over Democrat Dan Sanchez, even though Biden won this district by 4 points in 2020.

The special election was held under the previous congressional district lines, as a result of Democrat Filemon Vela’s retirement. When the revised boundaries go into effect in the autumn, the district will become one that Biden would have won by 16 points. Flores, though, will have a fighting chance to keep the seat due to the force of incumbency and the cachet of her upset. Republicans are now much more optimistic than they can convert two more Democratic-held seats in the Rio Grande Valley, which are expected to be even more contested.

Former Senator Dean Heller’s comeback campaign may have started on Tuesday.

Instead, Heller was trailing in the Republican gubernatorial contest in Nevada. With more than a third of the vote counted, Heller was trailing not just the front-runner, former Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, but also two other candidates in single digits.

If the results hold, it’s difficult to see how Heller will be able to overcome his loss and re-establish his reputation among Nevada voters if he decides to run again.

Heller had desired to be governor for decades, having brought newspapers to the governor’s palace as a child growing up in Carson City. He first considered running for the seat in 1998, and he considered it again in 2018 until it became evident that then-state Attorney General Adam Laxalt would run.

Heller’s early political career gained him a reputation as a renegade who refused to follow the party line. As a 30-year-old Republican pro-abortion-rights Mormon, he first ran for the state Assembly.

Joe Lombardo, the Clark County Sheriff and Republican candidate for governor of Nevada, talks during an election night party in Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. | Photo by John Locher/Associated Press

However, by the time he ran for re-election to the Senate in 2018, Heller was facing attacks from both Democrats and Republicans accusing him of flip-flopping on key issues such as whether to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and his support for President Donald Trump, whom he had declared to be “99 per cent against” just two years before.

Heller lost his re-election bid by 5 percentage points despite Trump’s endorsement, which some of his supporters thought was tepid at best.

During this election campaign, however, Heller leaned hard to the right, labelling President Joe Biden an “illegitimate” president and claiming that his state has the “worst election rules in the country.” Meanwhile, Lombardo has acknowledged that Biden was properly elected.

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What did Heller earn in return for his efforts? Heller’s political career is all but over, barring a dramatic turnabout in the vote tally on Wednesday. Trump still endorsed Lombardo.

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