- Former President Donald Trump’s endorsement record is being tested in midterm primaries.
- So far, Trump endorsed candidates in competitive races have received 63.5% of the vote on average.
- Several high-profile Trump picks have either lost or underperformed. Mehmet Oz’s fate remains unknown.
Former President Donald Trump’s endorsement record has held up relatively strong so far in the 2022 midterms. Factoring out Trump picks who ran unopposed, his endorsements receive an average of 63.5% of the vote across federal, state, and local primary contests.
But several of Trump’s most controversial or troubled selections have either underperformed or lost their Republican primaries altogether, as GOP voters have shown a willingness to ignore the former president’s wishes, according to an Insider analysis of Trump endorsees and election results.
It’s an indication that the value of Trump’s “golden ticket” is limited — and certainly no guarantee of salvation for a flawed candidate that’s lost the trust of Republican voters otherwise predisposed to supporting the former president’s hand-picked hopefuls.
Exhibit A: Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who lost his North Carolina District 11 congressional race amid numerous scandals. Trump’s plea to voters — “Let’s give Madison a second chance!” — couldn’t save the freshman congressman.
Trump’s endorsement also failed to rescue endorsee Charles Herbster, who faced accusations he groped women, from a Republican primary crash-and-burn in Nebraska’s gubernatorial contest.
Trump’s favored candidate in Idaho’s gubernatorial race, Janice McGeachin, earned just 32% percent of her Republican primary vote and lost. She had recently delivered a recorded speech at a White nationalist convention and cozied up to armed right-wing militia members.
Five other Trump-backed candidates, including legally imperiled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, failed to win their Republican primaries outright and face runoffs.
While endorsements are an imperfect measure of Trump’s influence in the present iteration of the GOP — with many of the candidates in these races running as the Trumpiest version of themselves, even after failing to clinch a Trump endorsement — they also provide a barometer for what an over-performance or under-performance looks like.
In Ohio, Republican Senate nominee and Trump endorsee JD Vance won his race with just 32% of the vote.
Rivals who tried to question Vance’s MAGA credentials and present themselves as bigger Trump loyalists, such as Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel — whose name Trump mangled with Vance’s as “JP Mandel” — were able to split the vote. Mandel and Ohio Assistant Attorney General Matt Dolan both received 23% of the vote, bringing Vance far below the average performance for a Trump blue chip candidate.
In Pennsylvania, results have yet to be finalized in the GOP Senate primary, but the returns so far indicate that a similar underperformance unfolded.
Mehmet Oz, the celebrity TV cardiothoracic surgeon and Trump’s selection in the race, is neck-and-neck with former hedge fund CEO David McCormick.
Both candidates held roughly 31% of the vote with 94% of returns in by Wednesday afternoon.
Five other candidates — most notably surging Kathy Barnette — combined to account for more than 37% of the vote.
Although Oz’s name recognition is significantly higher than that of McCormick, Oz faced criticism for carpetbagging — he is a longtime New Jersey resident who just recently established residency in Pennsylvania — and political inexperience.
“If he wins, it will be to a great extent because of the Trump endorsement,” longtime Pennsylvania pollster G. Terry Madonna told Insider.
“If McCormick wins, I think it’s because of his ads which talked about and projected his Pennsylvania roots,” Madonna, the co-founder of the Franklin & Marshall College poll, added.
As Insider previously reported from Trump’s rally for Oz in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the MAGA faithful were far from sold on Oz and gravitated toward Kathy Barnette as an alternative.
“I just want somebody from Pennsylvania, someone who actually grew up here,” Lynn Johnson, a 55-year-old restaurant server from Ligonier, Pennsylvania, told Insider.
Johnson said she was hung up on Oz’s New Jersey residency, first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“And Oprah,” Johnson mentioned as another red flag. “He was with Oprah.”
Johnson and other Oz skeptics at the rally tended to avoid blaming Trump for the pick, instead saying he has been getting bad advice. Others saw the endorsement as not their cup of tea, but more general election focused move.
“He’s not a stupid guy, he’s doing what he has to do to get the votes and get the folks in to actually make the change,” Tom McCandless of Philadelphia told Insider at the rally, referring to Trump.
“Because [Oz has] been on TV so much … he’ll get the stay-at-home moms,” McCandless added.
Across Tuesday night’s primaries — excluding the to-be-determined Oz result in Pennsylvania — Trump’s picks won 23 races and only lost three, one of them being Cawthorn.
Despite being out of office and having cost Republicans the White House, Senate and House, Trump’s endorsement tends to come with strong support up and down the ballot.
But Trump also pads his endorsement record by throwing his backing behind hopefuls who face little to no opposition.
Some Republicans have also taken notice when Trump issues a last-minute endorsement as in the case of Doug Mastriano, now Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, for whom Trump announced his support on the weekend before the election.
“There’s no question that there’s some influence there, but it’s also pretty clear that he’s pretty worried about the perception of his influence,” Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, whose seat Oz is running for, told Insider. “He endorses Doug Mastriano on the weekend before the election after it had become obvious to everyone that Mastriano was going to win. He does that so he can take credit for the win that was going to happen anyway.”
However, high-profile underperformers such as Oz and Vance show there is still a demand for alternatives in some races, and those alternatives are often presenting themselves as more Trumpy than the former president’s pick.
As for “JP Mandel,” were he a real, singular candidate, he would have gotten 56% of the vote in the Ohio primary, 7.5 percentage points off the average performance for a Trump endorsee in a competitive race.