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Opinion
Jonathan Bernstein

Republican Voters Aren’t Trump Zombies

Candidates endorsed by the former president have tended to win about a third of the ballots in key Republican primaries this year. Big-time kingmakers have more clout than that.

Less than meets the eye.

Less than meets the eye.

Photographer: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Let’s be clear about the lessons that can be drawn so far from this year’s Republican midterm primary elections: Republican voters are not behaving like zombies who automatically do what former President Donald Trump tells them to do. With Pennsylvania, Idaho and North Carolina speaking on Tuesday, a strong pattern regarding candidates endorsed by Trump has emerged.

Trump’s endorsed candidates did better in two other contests. In North Carolina, Ted Budd won the Senate primary with almost 60% of the vote, but experts attributed that more to heavy spending from the conservative Club for Growth than to Trump’s endorsement, which was one of many for Budd. And Trump jumped very late onto the bandwagon of gubernatorial hopeful Douglas Mastriano in Pennsylvania, but I doubt many will attribute much of his 44% showing to the last-minute endorsement.