The populist wave that swept Donald Trump to the top of the Republican ticket hasn’t led to a revolution sweeping away party insiders.
That’s the message from another set of primary victories Tuesday night for Senate incumbents from the party’s establishment wing — Arizona’s John McCain and Florida’s Marco Rubio. It’s also good news for a party hoping to cling to control of Congress even if Trump loses.
Few outsider candidates have been able to replicate Trump’s recipe for primary success this year, as Republicans successfully swatted away challenges to the party’s incumbents. McCain’s opponent, Kelli Ward, and Rubio’s challenger, Carlos Beruff, each failed to ride the Trump phenomenon. Neither had Trump’s name recognition, his ability to command attention, nor his endorsement.
The wins came not long after Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., trounced his primary challenger, Paul Nehlen, who also ran on a Trump-like message and scored less than 16 percent of the vote.
Trump nominally endorsed Rubio, McCain and Ryan, and has made no real effort to build a movement bigger than himself. It’s not clear how big his coattails would be if he did: Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, who received a rare Trump endorsement, lost.
McCain and Rubio, co-authors of a compromise immigration overhaul bill that passed the Senate in 2013, both endorsed Trump, too. But they’ve spent as little time as possible talking about him — or his policy platform.
Some are openly campaigning on the need to keep the Senate in GOP hands, whether Trump or Hillary Clinton is in the White House next year.
“The only person in this race who will not be a rubber stamp for the executive branch in this election is me, and that is what we need in the Senate more than ever before,” Rubio told his supporters Tuesday.
In another high-profile Arizona race, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio defeated his Republican challengers as he seeks a seventh term.