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Trump’s Clout Was Put to the Test in the GOP Primaries in South Carolina and Nevada

Trump won a significant victory in South Carolina on Tuesday when voters rejected a five-term incumbent Republican who supported the former president’s impeachment last year. However, another Trump critic in the state resisted a primary challenge, and as the polls closed in Nevada, a Senate race provided an even greater test of Trump’s hold on the Republican Party.

The Senate GOP primary in Nevada was supposed to be a cakewalk for Adam Laxalt, one of the state’s most prominent Republicans who has already won statewide office and had support from Trump and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Nonetheless, in the closing weeks leading up to Tuesday’s primary, Nevada’s former attorney general faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from Sam Brown. Brown, a veteran Army captain and Purple Heart recipient, has spoken in front of growing crowds drawn to his political outsider status. He bolstered his campaign by generating a lot of money, especially from small-dollar donations, who often reflect the party’s grassroots.

Several states, including Nevada and South Carolina, held elections in the middle of a primary season that could transform American politics. The races provided an opportunity for Trump to recoup momentum following high-profile setbacks in his quest to control the Republican Party ahead of a second presidential candidacy last month. In Georgia, for example, Trump’s governor nominee was trounced by a 50-point margin.

However, one of Trump’s top GOP targets, Rep. Tom Rice, lost his primary in neighbouring South Carolina on Tuesday after supporting the former president’s second impeachment last year. Rice’s opponent, state Rep. Russell Fry, has received Trump’s endorsement, and the president even visited the overwhelmingly Republican district earlier this year to encourage constituents to vote against Rice.

In a different South Carolina House contest, though, incumbent Republican Rep. Nancy Mace won her primary despite Trump’s efforts to defeat her. Despite Trump’s ire for condemning his role in the Jan. 6 insurgency, Mace defeated former state senator Katie Arrington.

After the findings were out, Mace sought to adopt a conciliatory tone with reporters, promising to “work with anyone prepared to work with me, full stop.”

Trump, for one, issued a remark on Twitter, describing Arrington as a “long shot” who ran a “fantastic race.” He congratulated Mace, predicting that he would easily defeat a Democrat in the autumn election.

Even still, much of the attention on Tuesday was focused on Nevada, where the victor of a GOP Senate race will face Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in what could be the GOP’s best chance to flip a Senate seat and retake control of the chamber.

Laxalt is well-known in Nevada for serving as attorney general for four years and unsuccessfully running for governor in 2018. He’s also the grandson of Paul Laxalt, a former US senator.


He also has ties to Trump, which is likely most crucial in Republican circles. After the 2020 election, Laxalt worked on Trump’s reelection campaign and propagated his lies about election fraud in the state. Trump, in turn, invited Laxalt to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, for a fundraiser and starred in a Laxalt campaign ad.

Brown, who was seriously burnt by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and has stressed his personal narrative in his outsider crusade, has gotten support from the party’s anti-establishment constituency.

Brown claimed in a recent campaign ad about how he nearly died in Afghanistan, “I wasn’t born into power.” “It turns out I’m hard to kill,” he says with a smile.

Brown received the endorsement of the Nevada Republican Party at a convention vote in late April and a straw poll of the Las Vegas-area GOP at a May event, much to the astonishment of many in the state. Recent polls show him closing in on Laxalt, even though the state, with its transient population and many late-shift employees due to the tourism and casino industries, is notoriously difficult to poll in.

Even though Laxalt remains the favourite to win, both candidates are projected to have a similar chance in November to defeat Cortez Masto, who is predicted to easily earn her party’s endorsement over several unknown contenders.

“I assume Laxalt would be a stronger general-election candidate than Brown, but I don’t think the difference is significant,” Kenneth Miller, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said.

Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the Senate and the successor to the late Sen. Harry Reid, is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year.

This year, Democrats have several challenges, including an unpopular president and rising costs. Residents of Las Vegas’ expansive suburbs or those commuting from far-flung rural areas in Nevada are painfully aware of high gas prices.

Those same circumstances could jeopardise Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s reelection since a Republican rival will emerge from Tuesday’s primary.

In the Nevada governor’s campaign, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo is the front-runner in a crowded field and has received Trump’s coveted endorsement.

Former U.S. Senator Dean Heller, who was formerly a critic of Trump’s and had a public scolding from the then-president, was noticeably shunned by the former president.

Joey Gilbert, a northern Nevada lawyer and former professional boxer who was outside the US Capitol when it was stormed on Jan. 6, 2021, is also contesting Lombardo. Gilbert, like Brown in the Senate election, has gained support from the party’s grassroots.

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Some of Tuesday’s contests, including the generally under-watched campaign for Nevada secretary of state, are peppered with Trump’s baseless assertions of election fraud in 2020. Barbara Cegavske, a Republican who was censured by the Nevada Republican Party for saying there was no fraud and defended the results as accurate, has a term limit.

A crowded field of Republicans is competing to succeed her, all of whom have embraced “election integrity” concerns to differing degrees.

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