Red states deliver split decision on Trump-backed candidates: The Note

Republican primary voters delivered conflicting messaging on Tuesday.

May 11, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Some races are less about which party will be in control than they are about who controls which party.

By that measure, Republican primary voters delivered conflicting messaging on Tuesday in a pair of states that former President Donald Trump carried comfortably in 2020. Trump got a big victory in West Virginia -- yet also saw his candidate decisively defeated in the governor’s race in Nebraska.

In West Virginia, where a pair of Republican House members were forced to run against each other, one backed the infrastructure law and a Jan. 6 commission. The other got Trump’s endorsement and romped despite a much thinner record in the state, riding MAGA momentum over the candidate backed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

In Nebraska, Trump backed and stood by a mega-donor Charles Herbster despite groping allegations from multiple women -- only to see him fade in the end. The state’s GOP establishment didn’t rally for another candidate as much as it did come together against Herbster, handing Trump his first primary loss of the still-young voting season.

It points to a possibility that Trump-skeptical Republicans have highlighted for months. While Trump may be near-impossible to beat when he gets involved in a congressional race, campaigns for governor might be different -- affording candidates a chance to display independent streaks and giving oxygen to other GOP players.

PHOTO: Republican Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster answers questions during a debate in Lincoln, Neb., March 24, 2022.
Republican Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster answers questions during a debate in Lincoln, Neb., March 24, 2022.
Lincoln Journal Star via AP, FILE

Less noticed amid Trump’s triumph with J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate race last week was his failure to recruit a challenger he would back against Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, who won renomination the same night as Vance.

As important as Tuesday’s races were, they might best be seen as warm-up acts to more consequential elections ahead. After a string of red-state primaries, upcoming races will nominate candidates in battleground Senate races and campaigns for governor in states that will be heavily contested in 2024.

That raises the stakes for both Trump and Republicans who are worried about the kind of candidates he is backing this year.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Despite the outrage surrounding the leaked SCOTUS draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a coming Senate vote to protect abortion rights is widely expected to fail Wednesday.

"There'll be no more hiding. There'll be no more distracting. No more obfuscating where every member in this chamber stands. Senate Republicans will face a choice. Either vote to protect the rights of women to exercise freedom over their own bodies or stand with the Supreme Court as 50 years of women's rights are reduced to rubble before our very eyes," Schumer said Tuesday.

PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference following the Democrats Policy Luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 10, 2022.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference following the Democrats Policy Luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 10, 2022.
Samuel Corum/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., one of the only Democrats with anti-abortion views, announced he would vote with his party in support of the Women's Health Protection Act. It's a significant shift on the issue from Casey. His father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey, opposed abortion and supported restrictions in the landmark SCOTUS case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

However, that shift isn't enough to advance the legislation with a 60-vote requirement to avoid the filibuster. Even Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the two GOP lawmakers in favor of abortion access, are expected to vote against the legislation citing "conscience protections," that would, for example, allow a Catholic hospital to refuse to provide abortion care.

While Wednesday's vote is expected to crash and burn, there could be a compromise in the works. Bipartisan negotiations are ongoing to at least preserve the status quo on Roe, according to ABC News' Trish Turner. The problem is that those efforts could face the same 60-vote obstacle. Still, Murkowski remains optimistic.

"I have stated my concerns with [the Women's Health Protection Act] previously, voted against that legislation previously, and have filed legislation with Senator Collins that we both feel actually codifies Roe and some of the other precedents related to Casey, so that's where we are," she said.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Next week's primary elections in Pennsylvania are likely to be the first contests in which we see the draft SCOTUS decision on Roe v. Wade play out on the 2022 campaign trail.

The issue could pose an uphill battle for Trump-endorsed Senate GOP candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has been facing backlash from voters and opponents alike about his past pro-abortion comments despite taking an anti-abortion stance throughout his campaign. In a 2019 interview on The Breakfast Club, Oz was asked to comment on anti-abortion laws that were making their way through the Alabama legislature.

"I'm really worried about it" and "I don't quite get it as a doctor," were some of Oz's reactions to the legislation.

PHOTO: Kathy Barnette takes part in a forum for Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Camp Hill, Pa., April 2, 2022.
Kathy Barnette takes part in a forum for Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Camp Hill, Pa., April 2, 2022.
Matt Rourke/AP

Opponents including Dave McCormick and Kathy Barnette have resurfaced the interview during primary debates in hopes of casting doubt on Oz's conservative positions. Most recently, Barnette described her personal reasons for being against abortions with the goal of questioning the doctor's political intentions.

"I am the byproduct of a rape. My mother was 11 years old when I was conceived. My father was 21. I was not just a lump of cells. As you can see, I'm still not just a lump of cells. My life has value," Barnette said before questioning whether Oz "changed his position on that my life is valuable."

Oz replied to Barnette's comments by saying he has the support of his mother-in-law, who is an ordained minister, and that as a heart surgeon who has operated on small children he "would never think of harming that child or even nine months earlier because life starts at conception."

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

21. That's the number of states' congressional maps that have been challenged in court, according to FiveThirtyEight's analysis. And of those 21 maps, six were actually overturned, although Alabama's was reinstated by the Supreme Court. Read more from FiveThirtyEight on the role the courts have played so far in the 2021-22 redistricting cycle.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Wednesday morning with the expected Senate vote on abortion rights and why it's expected to fail. ABC's Rachel Scott leads us off. Then, ABC's Aaron Katersky reports on the trial that cleared celebrity chef Mario Batali of sexual misconduct from a 2017 incident in Boston. And, ABC's Kayna Whitworth joins us from Lake Mead where more human remains have been found as the reservoir's water level drops. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events