Briefing

Everything you need to know about Tuesday's primary results

A stunning abortion vote, a good evening for Trump, and more

On Aug. 2, Michigan, Arizona, Washington, Kansas, and Missouri voted in party primaries to choose candidates for the November general election. What were the most important races, who won, and what does it mean for each party's prospects in the midterm elections? Here's everything you need to know about Tuesday's primaries:

Will abortion be front and center in November?

Perhaps the most important race of the night wasn't between competing candidates for office — it was the proposed constitutional amendment in Kansas to remove abortion protections. Unlike most states, reproductive rights are enshrined in the state's constitution, according to a 2019 state supreme court ruling. The ballot measure sought to amend the constitution so that the legislature can pass whatever laws it wants about abortion. In a heavily Republican-leaning state like Kansas, that would likely lead to a ban on the practice sooner or later. The ballot measure was also deliberately worded in a way to confuse voters who believe in some abortion rights, and GOP operatives engaged in a campaign of dirty tricks designed to fool voters into thinking a "Yes" vote was one for reproductive choice, as my colleague Joel Mathis has noted.

Despite all that, and despite holding the referendum on a Tuesday in mid-August, pro-life forces were handed a stinging, 18-point defeat by Kansas voters. Since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Women's Health overturning the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, the political environment has improved notably for Democrats. The results in Kansas suggest that the public's massive opposition to overturning Roe might just translate into a backlash that could blunt the GOP's otherwise strong hand in the midterm elections.

Did former President Trump get his preferred candidates?

The former president had potentially his best day yet in his quest to reshape the landscape of GOP general election candidates to his liking. The fight for GOP nominations for governor in Arizona and Michigan were heated. Arizona presented the clearest battle between the forces of conspiracy and election denial and traditional conservatism. There, Trump-endorsed media personality Kari Lake squared off against real estate developer Karrin Taylor Robson. Lake is an avowed enthusiast of Trump's Big Lie, while Robson is backed by former Vice President Mike Pence and says that Biden "may have won" the 2020 election — about as far as a Republican candidate is willing to go to challenge the party's new conspiratorial orthodoxy. He also issued a late endorsement for conservative media personality Tudor Dixon in the race to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan. Dixon won her primary going away, and as of this writing, Lake held a narrow lead over Robson with most of the votes counted in Arizona.

Also in Arizona, Trump endorsed 35-year-old election-denier and Unabomber-Manifesto-quoter Blake Masters, who ran Peter Thiel's investment fund before seeking office, in the Arizona Republican primary to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Masters won handily. And in Missouri, election-denier Eric Schmitt bested his chief rival, the disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, a day after Trump issued a bizarre statement endorsing "Eric." Greitens faced allegations of campaign corruption and sexual assault before resigning from his office in 2018, and Schmitt's backers successfully convinced GOP primary voters that Greitens could put the senate seat at risk in a landslide Trump state.

Did Trump succeed in driving more of his impeachers from the party?

Trump's forces also sought to take out Republicans who betrayed him by voting to impeach him. The latest victim is sitting Rep. Peter Meijer, a first-term congressman who was taken down by John Gibbs in Michigan's 3rd district. Gibbs is a former Trump official who has dabbled in QAnon conspiracy thinking and has a long history of controversial and anti-Semitic statements. He was also the beneficiary of Democratic spending, as some party strategists view his nomination as a path to victory for Team Blue, a risky gambit party elites have deployed across the country. If it works, it could help Democrats hold Congress. If it doesn't, it will only further normalize the paranoia and anti-democratic impulses of Trump's allies. The primary races involving Washington GOP Reps. Jamie Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, both of whom voted "yes" for impeachment after the Jan. 6 insurrection, were too close to call as of Wednesday morning, but both were behind.

If Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney loses her primary battle later this month, as expected according to polls, it could mean that just one of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment will still be in Congress next year. In their place will be a raft of conspiracy theorists and Trump sycophants. It will be also a chilling message to critics in advance of the 2024 GOP presidential primaries about what happens to Republicans who cross the former president. Will even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis be willing to risk a potentially career-ending suicide run against Trump if it means becoming a permanent persona non grata inside the party?

What happened with the Democrats?

As has frequently been the case this primary season, there were fewer explosive races on the Democratic side. The most contentious was a Michigan primary pitting two incumbents against one another in a redistricting special: progressive Rep. Andy Levin against Rep. Haley Stevens, who accused Levin of being too pro-Palestinian. Stevens defeated Levin handily. But elsewhere in Michigan, the effort to unseat progressive Democratic Rep. and "Squad" member Rashida Tlaib fizzled badly — the first Palestinian-American in Congress lapped her competitors by nearly 40 points with over half the vote counted. While Democratic moderates have fared well this year in general, the effort to make an example out of the four most famous progressives in the House has not gone well at all.

In Missouri, Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine's late momentum carried her to victory over Bernie Sanders-backed Marine veteran Lance Kunce, who was trying to recapture the magic from Jason Kander's almost-successful Senate run in 2018. But Busch Valentine came from behind and will face off against Schmitt in the general election, where the Republican candidate will be heavily favored no matter how deep his opponent's pockets.

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