Georgia primary takeaways: Trump's GOP influence takes a hit You'd be hard-pressed to find two Republican incumbents who drew more of Donald Trump's ire than Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Both won big on Tuesday.

3 reasons Trump's influence took a big hit in Tuesday's primaries

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Former President Trump wasn't on the ballot in yesterday's primaries, but he still lost. Two of the candidates he endorsed in Georgia both got beaten badly, and that is calling into question his influence in Republican politics. For more on that and some of the other primaries, we're joined now by NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, thanks for having me.

CHANG: Well, thanks for being with us. So starting with Georgia, what races are we talking about here when we say Trump lost badly?

MONTANARO: Well, I'm looking at the governor's race and secretary of state's race in particular there. You'd be hard-pressed to find two Republican incumbents who Trump wanted out of office more than incumbent Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Both won by huge margins, though, in their primaries last night against handpicked, Trump-recruited challengers who campaigned on his election lies. Here's Raffensperger declaring victory last night.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: My thinking was the vast majority of Georgians are looking for honest people for elected office, someone who would do their job, follow the law and look out for them regardless of the personal cost to do so.

MONTANARO: And there certainly was a lot of political cost for him - personal cost. Trump did have some wins last night. Herschel Walker, the former NFL star who he recruited for the Senate, easily won his primary. His former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas, won her primary to be governor there. And when it comes to Walker's race, though, it's important to point out it was an open contest, no incumbent, and that really makes a difference.

CHANG: This is so interesting. Do we know why Trump's influence was so weak in Georgia?

MONTANARO: Lots of speculation on that, but here's a few informed theories, OK? First, speaking of the power of incumbency, that's one reason. You know, people who are already in office have established records, established brands to run on. Kemp, for example, touted his conservative measures that he'd signed into law, like that voting overhaul, which was really controversial nationally, and his past record of defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams, who's going to be the nominee again this time. He beat her in 2018 narrowly. So electability here may have played some role in voters' minds, too.


MONTANARO: Second, what we saw in Georgia that's been different than in lots of other states was a sustained push by Republicans against Trump, these officials. Candidates here weren't reacting to Trump, letting him dictate the terms. Top Republicans instead, you know, were lining up against Trump's lies in lots of different ways. You know, Kemp largely ignored Trump. If you look at Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, he went right after Trump. He's created an advocacy group called GOP 2.0. Duncan, of course, easier for him to do that because he's not running for reelection. And Trump's pick for lieutenant governor actually did pretty well and is well ahead at this point.

But lastly, you know, Trump has seen a dip among Republican voters and whether they have strong feelings for him. His, quote, "very favorable ratings" have dropped 20 points among Republicans since the eve of the 2020 election. That just shows the farther you get away from power, the harder it is to retain a grip on the base. You know, Trump, though, of course, can't be counted out. He's still the biggest player in Republican politics and the frontrunner for the 2024 nomination if he wants it.

CHANG: Sure. OK. Well, apart from Georgia, three other states held primaries. Any results there that stood out to you?

MONTANARO: Yeah. Let's look at Texas. Democratic primary in the 20th Congressional District remains too close to call; real race between progressive Jessica Cisneros and Henry Cuellar, who's the incumbent Democrat there. Progressives upset that party leaders backed Cuellar, even though he's the only Democrat in Congress against abortion rights. And we may have seen the end of the Bush political dynasty in Texas. George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, lost, was trounced in his bid for attorney general last night.

CHANG: That is NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thank you, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

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