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How President Trump factored into Tuesday’s primaries

Primary voters in five more states went to the polls Tuesday. Among the outcomes, South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford was defeated hours after President Trump endorsed Sanford's opponent, while Virginia chose Corey Stewart, a vocal proponent of keeping Confederate monuments, as the GOP Senate nominee. Judy Woodruff gets reaction from former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    But first, primary voters in five more states went to the polls yesterday to pick candidates for November’s midterm elections.

    South Carolina’s U.S. Representative Mark Sanford became the second incumbent Republican to lose his reelection fight this year. His defeat came just hours after President Trump tweeted his endorsement of Sanford’s opponent, State Representative Katie Arrington.

    And, in Virginia, Corey Stewart won the GOP nomination to face incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine in November. Stewart has been a vocal proponent of immigration and a proponent of keeping the state’s Confederate monuments in place after the Charlottesville protests from last summer.

    For a look at what this latest wave of primaries might tell us about the Republican Party and races to come, I spoke a short while ago with Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia.

    I began by asking him what yesterday’s results say about the state of the Republican Party.

  • Tom Davis:

    I think that it’s pretty clear that, you know, the party is slowly becoming Donald Trump, that he has changed the party coalition.

    The Republican base has migrated from the country club to the country. And it’s a different electorate than it was 10 or 20 years ago in terms of people who are self-identified Republicans and participating in the Republican nomination process.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    When you say it’s changed from country club to the country, you don’t mean they’re all living in rural areas, do you?

  • Tom Davis:

    Well, that’s the base.

    You certainly have Republicans in cities. Donald Trump got 4 percent of the vote in Washington, D.C., so there are some Republicans there. But you look at most of the American cities, Republicans are basically nonexistent.

    The group-speak in those areas is decidedly anti-Republican. In the suburbs, the further out you go, the more Republican it gets. I give the example, we have a civic association near us where the executive board met and asked one of the neighbors to take down the Trump sign because they found it offensive.

    But 30 miles out, people were putting up their own Trump signs, making their own Trump signs, and putting them up proudly. So there is a huge division in this country among people who identify particularly with Donald Trump, and that’s affecting the Republican coalition.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you think these pro-Trump voters want? What do they want their government to do for them?

  • Tom Davis:

    Well, it’s about world views, I think to a great extent. What’s the government role? Where do they stand?

    When you get the rapidity of change that we have had in society over the last decade, a lot of — some people feel more empowered than ever, ascendant groups. You have another group that feels really — that their status is really threatened and they have kind of doubled down. And Trump is their guy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, for example, one of Corey Stewart’s position is that police need to check every person who is arrested to find out their immigrant status and to be very aggressive about this.

    You are assuming these are voters who would agree with that?

  • Tom Davis:

    Well, it got him elected three — he didn’t run on that the first time, but his three reelects in Prince William County, which is a majority minority county, it reelected him.

    I think the proof is in the pudding there. There are a lot of people who feel the change in population is threatening to them, and they want the police to double down.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, if this is what’s happening in the Republican primaries this year, what does that spell for November? What are Corey Stewart’s chances against the incumbent senator, Tim Kaine, in November?

  • Tom Davis:

    Well, I think any Republicans’ chance — let’s not personalize it to Stewart — would have been very difficult.

    Tim Kaine has run statewide a number of times and he’s never lost. He has got $10 million in the bank. His ticket carried the state by 5 percentage points last time.

    Midterms tend to go against the president’s party. So by every major atmospheric and any metric, I think at this point, this was going to be a tough race for Republicans, which is why I think you had a relatively weak field for the Republican Senate nomination.

    Some of the stronger candidates that might have been able to either self-fund that have larger political bases just didn’t get involved because they didn’t see November worth the trouble.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, right now, what does it look like?

  • Tom Davis:

    Well, I think it’s going to be a very difficult race for the Republicans to win.

    They have, just as I calculate, about 11 Democratic-held seats that they have a better chance of taking than they do in Virginia. And so you can do the math. They have got to defend about three seats.

    But in terms of the allocation of resources, unlikely to go to Virginia. I think that makes it a very, very uphill race for Republicans this fall.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And one other subject, Tom Davis, I want to ask you about.

    We see women doing well, particularly well in Democratic primaries this year. The Democrats, I was reading a statistic this morning, they have nominated women in just under 50 percent of their open House primaries.

    Why aren’t — and the contrast among Republicans is something like 12 percent. Why aren’t there more Republican women running?

  • Tom Davis:

    Well, there still are.

    I think if you took a look at Republican nominees who are women this time, it hasn’t gone down. It’s just you have seen a lot of women getting activated after the election of President Trump. We saw the women’s march. They feel empowered. The Democrat has laid out the welcome mat to these people.

    The Republicans, to some extent, still have an admissions test in terms of letting in the party. They have ideological tests. People who don’t adhere to that get often called RINOs.

    And the Democrats are, at least to date, a more open party right now. These things go back and forth through the years. And, as a result of that, people who want to get active in office, women who feel a new sense of empowerment, they’re picking the Democratic Party.

    It’s an embarrassment of riches for Democrats, because, as we saw in Virginia 10 yesterday, you had several well-qualified women carving each other up to face another Republican woman, Barbara Comstock.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it’s a fascinating trend to watch. We will see what happens in the next few months.

    Tom Davis, thank you very much.

  • Tom Davis:

    Thanks for having me.

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