Aug 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The mainstream strikes back

Rep. Andrew Garbarino, wearing a gray suit with a blue grid pattern, a white shirt and a red and blue striped tie, smiles as he sits on the Capitol steps.
Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.). Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

In what has been a mixed year for the political establishment, Tuesday's primaries presented a near-total victory for the mainstreams of both parties.

Why it matters: The rise of populism in recent years has allowed grassroots candidates — both Trumpy and progressive — to pull off primary upsets. A historic number of incumbents have fallen to insurgents this year.

Driving the news: Several "Ultra MAGA" candidates fell short in their primary bids.

  • NY-2: Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), who broke with his party on votes on infrastructure, gay marriage and the bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, fended off right-wing challenger Robert Cornicelli.
  • NY-23: New York State GOP chair Nick Langworthy beat scandal-ridden developer and former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.
  • FL-7: Right-wing state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who called for the arrest of FBI agents on sight over to the Mar-a-Lago search, lost to veteran Cory Mills, a more conventional conservative.
  • FL-11: Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) beat Laura Loomer, a prominent far-right, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist.

Between the lines: One thing all these losing candidates had in common: They weren't endorsed by Trump. While the former president has faltered plenty this year, his support can be a key tool in the Republican anti-incumbency playbook.

  • For instance, four House Republicans who voted for Trump's impeachment lost to Trump-endorsed insurgents — but another, Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), managed to dispatch several challengers who didn't have Trump's backing.
  • The Trump endorsement was also notably absent from a set of unheralded bids against Republicans who voted for the Jan. 6 commission — many of whom won with less than 60%.

What we're watching: As has been the case with a number of Trump diehards this cycle, several of the "Ultra MAGA" candidates who lost on Tuesday refused to concede and concocted voter fraud conspiracy theories.

The other side: Democratic moderates and establishment candidates also banked several wins on Tuesday.

  • NY-17: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) routed progressive state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, calling his win a sign that voters "want leaders who will put partisanship aside to get real results."
  • NY-10: Former impeachment lawyer Dan Goldman, who was widely cast as the most moderate major candidate in the field, won after his progressive rivals teamed up to try to curb his momentum.
  • NY-11: Former Rep. Max Rose easily defeated veteran and progressive activist Brittany Debarros in the race to take on Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.).

Yes, but: Tuesday's primaries weren't a total loss for progressives.

  • Bernie-Sanders-endorsed activist Maxwell Frost defeated a crowded Democratic primary field in Florida's 10th district and will likely become the first member of Congress from Generation Z.
  • Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), both members of the progressive "Squad," easily defended their seats from moderate challengers.
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