Donald Trump’s name was not on the ballot.
But he emerged as a clear winner on a night that will likely prove critical not only to his political future, but also to the fortunes of the United States.
The former president has endorsed numerous candidates as he seeks to consolidate his control over the party, endorsing candidates in five prominent Republican primary contests that were being closely watched as an indicator of the power of such patronage.
As results poured in from races held in five states – Idaho, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Oregon – two of his picks, Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Ted Budd in North Carolina, were named easy and early winners : Mastriano for Governor and Budd for the United States Senate.
A third victory for Trump came an hour or two later, when 26-year-old Bo Hines won the race to become the nominee for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District.
Trump, 75, has endorsed many extreme or unlikely people during his time in politics, including Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn.
Yet among those figures, few highlight the transformation of the GOP during his tenure than Mastriano, a 58-year-old state senator who was present at Trump’s Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6, 2021, and continues to deny legitimacy. of Joe Biden’s presidency.
“We had the hardest working campaign in this primary,” said Mastriano, who defeated Lou Barletta and Bill McSwain, at his campaign headquarters in Philadelphia. “And we are going to have the hardest working campaign in this general election.”
He also listed the things he would do on his first day on the job.
“The mandates are gone. No more hitting on job requirements, no more critical race theory,” he said to roars from his supporters. “Only biological women can play on the biological women’s team and you can only use the bathroom that your biological anatomy says.”
In North Carolina, another Trump-backed candidate, Budd, was similarly outspoken and was looking forward to his Senate general election matchup against Democrat Cheri Beasley, who won her party’s primary.
Budd, the winner of Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary in North Carolina, told supporters: “We need to come together and look ahead to the race in November.”
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He said the Republican candidates made a unity pledge to support the eventual candidate.
Budd wasted no time criticizing the Democratic candidate. “Cheri Beasley is the most radical liberal candidate ever to run for Senate in North Carolina,” he said, later criticizing Biden-Beasley’s “lawless open border agenda.”
It appeared that not all of Trump’s candidates were going to cross the line.
In North Carolina, controversial Congresswoman Madison Cawthorn, the youngest member of the House, lost to State Senator Chuck Edwards. The 26-year-old had angered some in his own party with a series of embarrassing episodes, including a claim that legislative leaders invited him to a cocaine-fueled orgy.
Meanwhile, while back in Pennsylvania, Trump’s pick for Senate, Mehmet Oz, TV’s Dr. Oz, was running second to the more established David McCormick, and ahead of the “ultra- WIZARD” Kathy Barnette.
The difference between the television personality and his opponent, a hedge fund manager, was just a tenth of a percentage point, ensuring that no winner would be announced on Tuesday.
“I want to thank Sean Hannity,” Oz said, referring to the Fox News host who also endorsed his candidacy. “He is like a brother to me.”
Even if Trump didn’t win an outright victory Tuesday night, he won enough wins to show the power he wields; Mastriano, in particular, had been lagging behind until the former president endorsed him.
However, on a broader level, Trump had already won before the results were announced. His continued presence as the most likely Republican presidential candidate in 2024, and his continued denial of the 2020 results, has pushed many candidates to try to copy and emulate him.
The selection process he oversaw at his Florida estate, a political Mar-a-Lago beauty pageant where people were forced to beg and scrape, showed that he had lost none of his ability to understand how to put on a good show. .
This should worry Democrats.
Biden can issue as many congratulatory statements as he wants to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who beat Congressman Conor Lamb in the Democratic Senate primary.
And the Democratic Governors Association may call Mastriano an “extremist running a dangerous agenda.”
But just days after 10 African Americans were killed by an alleged white supremacist in Buffalo, Trump has shown that whatever he is, or whatever his politics stands for, can very often win.