By Ashe O
Washington, Aug 17 (IANS): Democrat Liz Cheney, the fiercest critic of Donald Trump as the Vice Chair of the January 6 Congressional panel on Capitol Hill insurrection, lost big by double digits to Trump-backed Harriet Harriet Hageman in the primaries on Tuesday.
Cheney polled 29 per cent of the votes, compared to 66 per cent for Harriet Hageman, the Trump-endorsed candidate who has not held any elected office before.
This clearly demonstrated that Trump's fractured image by the Jan 6 panel hearings and the FBI raid at his Mar-A-Lago residence in Florida leading to reported seizure of classified documents had little impact on his supporters demonstrating his clear stranglehold on the Republican supporters and upping his chance for a rerun in 2024.
Tuesday night offered the latest evidence of Trump's continued influence over the Republican Party. The New York Times sent a newsletter posted to the media and subscribers said: "We'll give you the results and also offer some larger perspective on the overall success rate of Trump's endorsements this year."
Here are the main results: In Wyoming's Republican primary for secretary of state, the office that oversees elections, the winner was Chuck Gray, a state legislator whom Trump endorsed. Gray, like Trump, had falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.
In Alaska, Sarah Palin, the state's former governor whom Trump endorsed, and two rivals - Mary Peltola, a Democrat, and Nick Begich, a Republican - advanced to the November election for Alaska's open House seat to replace Don Young, who died in March.
Alaska also held a Senate primary, but its results are unlikely to matter much. The state uses open primaries in which the top four vote getters advance to the general election. Both the incumbent - Lisa Murkowski, who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial for the Capitol attack - and Trump's preferred candidate, Kelly Tshibaka, advanced.
Alaska uses ranked-choice voting, which may favor a moderate like Murkowski.
The 2022 primary schedule is winding down, with only six states yet to hold elections, including Florida next week. The full picture of Trump's influence is becoming clear. He has become the rare defeated President to wield enormous sway over his party, with the ability to end careers (like Cheney's, perhaps) and to turn once-obscure candidates into winners.
Trump even persuaded other top Republicans, like Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Ted Cruz, to endorse Cheney's opponent.
But Trump's influence is not complete. The success rate of his endorsements in competitive elections hovers around 80 per cent, and some incumbents (like Murkowski, perhaps) have proven strong enough to overcome his criticism of them.
The Times' Maggie Haberman noted that Trump sometimes makes endorsements without thinking them through, including in multi-candidate races with more than one candidate who supports his agenda.
"Trump tends to treat politics like a scoreboard, as opposed to a strategic effort," Maggie said.
Trump's triumph comes from the races where he helped defeat incumbents who defied him, including four of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him over Jan 6.
Trump has also transformed some campaigns without an incumbent, allowing his endorsee to win a crowded field. Examples include J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate primary; Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate primary; and Kari Lake in the Arizona governor primary.
The New York Times said its analysis understated Trump's influence, because it does not include officials who resigned partly out of a fear that a more Trump-friendly candidate might beat them.
The Ohio and Pennsylvania Senate seats, as well as those in Missouri and North Carolina, seem to be examples. The Senators who chose not to run for election in these states - like Rob Portman in Ohio - were not even regular Trump critics. They instead tended to be establishment Republicans who tried to avoid talking about him.
Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, four also did not run for re-election. Overall, only two still have a chance to remain in Congress next year.
However, Trump is not omnipotent, as races where his endorsed candidates have lost this year tend to fall into one of two categories: Either his chosen candidates were facing incumbents with a strong enough connection to voters to survive, or the Trump-backed candidates seemed too flawed to win.
Georgia falls into the first category. There, both Gov. Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, survived primary challengers despite their refusal to help Trump's attempt to reverse the 2020 election result.
The Alabama Senate race falls into the second category. Mo Brooks, a House member involved in the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, was struggling so much that Trump withdrew his endorsement late in the campaign and later switched to Katie Britt, who already seemed on course to win.
Other Trump endorsees who lost their races include Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, who has been accused of insider trading and sexual misconduct; and Charles Herbster, a candidate for Nebraska governor whom multiple women accused of groping.
Even if Trump does not become the Republican presidential nominee again, he continues to shape the Republican Party. He has helped push out of Congress some of the Republicans who have voted for bipartisan legislation this year. He has also pushed out some of those who have called out his lies about his election and criticized his encouragement of the Jan 6 rioters.
In their place are candidates who have signalled they might be willing to commit election fraud to keep Democrats from taking office, regardless of the vote count, the NYT newsletter said.
"These primary fights aren't between the ‘pro-Trump' wing versus the ‘anti or never-Trump' wing of the G.O.P.," Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report has written, referring to most races.
"In both style and substance, the current G.O.P. remains Trump's party."
In her concession speech, Cheney vowed to continue to fight the former President's election lies and steer the GOP away from his influence. Since the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol, Cheney has become the Republican Party's most forceful critic of Trump and has helped lead the House select committee investigating the Capitol riots.
She is the eighth of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump to now exit the House. Separately, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is squaring off in the first of what's likely to be two rounds against the Trump-endorsed Kelly Tshibaka. Former Gov. Sarah Palin, meanwhile, is attempting a political comeback in a special election for the state's lone House seat.