It's Trump's night as his candidates sweep GOP primaries
Donald Trump erased all doubts about who owns the Republican Party on Tuesday night as several Trump-backed candidates swept to victory in GOP primaries.
Primaries were held in Maine, South Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, and North Dakota. Po-Trump candidates win crucial races. The most notable among Trump's victories occurred in South Carolina, where former governor and current GOP incumbent Congressman Mark Sanford, a bitter critic of the president, went down to defeat.
In the most dramatic result in primaries across five states Tuesday, Sanford was the second incumbent House Republican to lose a primary this year – and the latest victim of intense divisions among the GOP in the Trump era.
Though he has a generally conservative voting record, his criticism of Mr. Trump as unworthy and culturally intolerant made him a target of the president's most dedicated supporters, who often elevate loyalty over policy.
Sanford was defeated by state Rep. Katie Arrington, who spent her campaign blasting Sanford as a "Never Trumper."
In Virginia, pro-Trump Senate candidate Corey Stewart easily dispatched several challengers to win the right to face off with the state's incumbent Democratic senator Tim Kaine.
Another interesting race is Nevada, where perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, son of the legendary UNLV basketball coach, cruised to victory in the GOP primary to determine who will run in the open 3rd District. Tarkanian had originally wanted to run for the GOP senate nomination against incumbent Dean Heller. Heller had angered state Republicans and the president by voting against Obamacare repeal. But Trump and Heller mended fences, and senior Republicans convinced Tarkanian to drop his Senate bid and go for the 3rd District nomination. Heller, who easily won the primary, now has an even chance to keep the seat Republican.
In North Dakota, a state Trump won by 36 points in 2016, GOP rep. Kevin Cramer easily won the right to face off with incumbent Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp. Cramer initially declined to run for the Senate, but some lobbying from Trump and Republican Senate leaders changed his mind. The seat is seen as crucial to Republicans, who, if they can flip it, are almost guaranteed to maintain control of the Senate.
There is no doubt who won last night. For better or worse, the Republican Party is now firmly in the control of Donald Trump. And the message to Trump's GOP opponents was clear: get on board the Trump train, or get left behind.