Ghost of Haley Candidacy Haunts GOP Primaries in Warning Sign to Trump, While Hogan, Justice Win Senate Nods 

Fresh off a stunning 15 percent tally in last week’s Indiana Republican primary, Ms. Haley receives tens of thousands of votes in West Virginia and Maryland on Tuesday night.

AP/Charlie Neibergall, file
Governor Haley on December 18, 2023, at Nevada, Iowa. AP/Charlie Neibergall, file

It’s been two months since the former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, was a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination but she keeps racking up votes from Republicans who don’t want to cast their ballot for President Trump.

Fresh off a stunning 15 percent tally in last week’s Indiana Republican primary, Ms. Haley received tens of thousands of votes in West Virginia and Maryland on Tuesday night. 

Maryland, a heavily educated, D.C.-adjacent state, is particularly tailor-made for Ms. Haley’s less ideological, technocratic approach. But even then, Ms. Haley’s strength is eye-catching.

The persistent votes for Ms. Haley could be a warning sign for Mr. Trump. Even as the Republican party coalesces around him, a chunk of its voter base still wants to vote against him. 

However, it’s possible many of these voters are Biden voters already who have simply chosen to vote in the GOP primary and delight in embarrassing Mr. Trump. If that’s the case, the protest vote won’t mean much in November.

The presidential primary may be decided, but down-ballot elections loomed large as voters in several states, including Maryland and West Virginia, chose nominees Tuesday in critical races that could decide the balance of power on Capitol Hill next year.

Maryland’s former Republican governor, Larry Hogan, easily won his party’s nomination for the Senate seat opened by Democrat Ben Cardin’s retirement. The Senate race in the solidly Democratic state would normally be a snoozer, but Mr. Hogan is a candidate unlike any other Republican.

Over his two terms as governor, Mr. Hogan won a significant number of Democratic votes and remained popular among a wide swath of the left-leaning state. He’s been a sharp Trump critic, which endears him to a segment of the Democratic electorate and can blunt attacks from the left. 

That’s why Senate Republicans wooed him relentlessly to run for the newly open seat, as part of their plan to flip control of the chamber from Democrats, who currently have a two-seat majority.

Candidates with cross-party appeal like Mr. Hogan used to be a staple of national politics, but they are fading fast in an era where voters routinely vote on a straight party line rather than for individual politicians. 

During the last two presidential elections, only one senator — Susan Collins, a Maine Republican — won a state that also backed a presidential candidate of a different party.

Mr. Hogan will face Democrat Angela Alsobrooks, who notched a striking win in a contentious primary in which she was dramatically outspent.

If she wins in November, Ms. Alsobrooks would be the first Black senator from Maryland, which has one of the largest Black populations in the country. The lone Black woman currently in the Senate, Laphonza Butler of California, is stepping down after her appointed term ends in December. The chamber has three Black male senators.

The biggest shift in the Senate may have already happened Tuesday night, when the governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, formally won the GOP nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Manchin.

Mr. Manchin was a centrist Democrat who was a lightning rod for the left and the right but survived politically as his state shifted far to the right. It’s likely that he was the only Democrat who could win a senate election in the state and that now Mr. Justice will replace him.

Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Justice, a wealthy coal magnate-turned-Democratic politician-turned-Republican whose folksy demeanor and omnipresent English bulldog — named Babydog — endeared him to West Virginia’s voters.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Justice has been trailed by legal controversy — his firms have been sued for not paying their debts and tax authorities have placed liens on his properties. And like Mr. Trump, Mr. Justice has strayed from GOP orthodoxy. 

He embraced the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Mr. Biden signed and has become a cornerstone of the incumbent president’s campaign. That earned him attacks from his rival, Representative Alex Mooney, but it wasn’t enough to blunt Mr. Justice’s advantages.

Associated Press


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