There is little question that Trump’s endorsement helps, but his mixed endorsement record shows the limits of that assistance. And the share Perdue received in the final Fox News poll is very similar to how others have fared.
Nebraska governor candidate Charles Herbster? 30 percent. Idaho governor candidate Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin? 32 percent. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.)? 32 percent. Ohio and Pennsylvania Senate candidates J.D. Vance and Mehmet Oz? 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
Indeed, in high-profile, competitive primaries, one-third of the vote has been more the rule than the exception. Rep. Ted Budd did get 59 percent in the North Carolina Senate race, and Rep. Alex Mooney (W.Va.) also garnered a majority in an incumbent-versus-incumbent House primary. But aside from another incumbent who got 43 percent — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — and a series of much-lower-profile races (often including incumbents in no real danger), nobody else has cracked 33 percent.
Both Vance and Oz, it bears emphasizing, appear likely to win. Vance already has, and Oz maintains a 1,000-vote lead over Dave McCormick in the as-yet-uncalled Pennsylvania Senate primary. Both faced plenty of opponents — including opponents who similarly catered to the Trumpian base. Ditto Paxton, who seems likely to take a healthier share tonight now that he’s in a one-on-one runoff against George P. Bush. Trumpian candidates are clearly winning majorities in most big races, even as Trump endorsees are generally pretty far from it.
But it’s also worth taking a look at just how much Trump’s actual endorsement helps — and how much voters are heeding his word about who’s most in line with the MAGA movement.
In Ohio, Vance had polled in the low-teens before Trump’s mid-April endorsement. But one poll conducted immediately before Trump’s endorsement put him right up there with the leaders at 23 percent, before he took 32 percent in the end.
In Pennsylvania, a Fox News poll in March showed Oz trailing McCormick by nine points before Trump endorsed him and he drew about level with McCormick, which is where the campaign ended. But other early polling showed the race remained tight throughout. As with in neighboring Ohio, Trump’s endorsement might have been good for about 10 points, on the margin, but it’s not quite so clear.
(We don’t include the Pennsylvania governor’s race in the chart above, because state Sen. Doug Mastriano was already well on his way to victory when Trump endorsed him in the final days. But there, Mastriano was up 10-12 points in polls before the endorsement, and won by 24.)
Trump’s endorsement surely benefitted Budd, who defeated no less than a former governor, Pat McCrory, by more than 30 points. But it came very early, so it’s difficult to do a before-and-after.
Another interesting case study comes in Alabama. Like Budd, Rep. Mo Brooks got Trump’s very early backing in a key Southern Senate race. Then, as with Budd, grumbling ensued about how Brooks was under-performing. While Trump stuck with Budd, he dumped Brooks, un-endorsing him in March. Then came the twist: Brooks actually appears to have gained in the polls since losing Trump’s endorsement and could even make the runoff on Tuesday.
Which brings us to Georgia. Trump’s endorsement there also came early — in December of 2021, after a concerted effort to woo Perdue into the race — so we don’t have good pre-endorsement polling to compare the final results to. But what we have seen is that the race was polling competitively at the time, and Kemp appears to have only expanded his lead. What’s more, Trump’s own political operation ran a poll in the summer of 2021 that suggested Trump’s endorsement would push Perdue into the lead by double digits over Kemp.
That, needless to say, never materialized — far from it. And depending on how the results Tuesday night shake out, there may be real questions about why Trump couldn’t marshal his followers against a governor who he said had so wronged him — and them. If there was one race that Trump pegged for making such a statement about the 2020 election, after all, it was this one.