Former President Donald Trump’s clout with Republican voters in a key swing state will be tested again on Tuesday as the fallout from the FBI search of his Florida resort mushrooms across the political landscape.
Wisconsin, where Republicans are selecting their nominee to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in a crucial November election, is providing the headline contests, but three other states — Minnesota, Vermont and Connecticut — are also going to the polls, with races up and down the ballot poised to provide a clearer picture of an increasingly high-stakes midterm election season.
Wisconsin is the third state in which Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence have backed opposing GOP candidates for governor. Pence has backed former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who, at the outset, appeared to be the party favorite in the primary. But Kleefisch, who served two terms as former Gov. Scott Walker’s second-in-command, is locked in a tight race with Tim Michels, a construction company owner who was endorsed by Trump and has gone further in embracing his 2020 election lies — mostly by indulging efforts to decertify President Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Kleefisch has been more circumspect, triggering attacks from Trump.
Trump and Pence each have mixed records: Trump’s choice in Arizona, Kari Lake, a conservative commentator and election denier, narrowly won the nomination, while Pence’s pick in Georgia, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, defeated Trump-backed primary challenger David Perdue, a former senator, in a landslide.
The rubber match between the former running mates will settle the Republican Party’s slate of nominees for governor in the states that flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden four years later — Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania. All five are expected to be fiercely contested again in 2024, and GOP victories in those political battlegrounds this fall could help ease Trump’s path back to the White House if he runs again.
Wisconsin is also home to a critical GOP primary in the state legislature, where longtime Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, an arch conservative who has mostly gone along with Trump’s 2020 election claims, is being challenged by Adam Steen, who picked up a Trump endorsement because Vos, in the former President’s estimation, has been insufficiently bullish about right-wing efforts to have the state decertify his defeat.
Democrats, meanwhile, are very much enjoying the anticlimactic finish to what many expected to be a closely-contested Senate primary. After polls showed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes pulling away from the field, his top rivals all dropped out in a span of a few days, effectively handing him the nomination and a November showdown with Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, one of Trump’s leading defenders in Washington and a top target for Democrats hoping to preserve or potentially expand their Senate majority.
Also in the Upper Midwest on Tuesday, Republicans in Minnesota will pick their candidate to face Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who is seeking a second term.
Scott Jensen, a doctor and former state lawmaker, all but clinched the nomination after winning the support of the state party. He faces Joyce Lynne Lacey and Bob “Again” Carney Jr., both heavy underdogs, in the primary. Jensen is a longtime critic of Walz, mostly railing against statewide lockdowns during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. But he also suggested hospitals inflated their counts of the sick and questioned the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, which Jensen has said he did not receive.
The race between Walz and Jensen could also help determine the fate of abortion rights in Minnesota. Jensen told Minnesota Public Radio in March that he would “try to ban abortion” if elected, a remark Walz and other Democrats have already seized on. Jensen, late last month, backed off his more aggressive language in remarks, saying he supports exceptions to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
But Democrats, emboldened by Kansas’ vote last week to preserve abortion rights in a statewide referendum, are expected to make the issue a central piece of their fall campaign.
Read more here.