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  /  News   /  Trump takes a hit in New Jersey: 5 takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries

Trump takes a hit in New Jersey: 5 takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries

A number of states held primaries for races up and down the ballot Tuesday, with President Biden and Donald Trump inching ever closer to their respective nominations and a couple notable Senate matchups solidifying.

Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and Washington, D.C., held some of the last presidential primaries of the cycle. Guam and the Virgin Islands will officially cap off the presidential primary on Saturday, when they both hold their Democratic contests.  

But Tuesday night also featured other prominent primaries, such as in Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D) officially got an opponent in Tim Sheehy. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, an establishment-backed Republican delivered a surprise blow to Donald Trump, and Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) got one step closer to being the state’s next senator.

Here are five takeaways from the Tuesday primaries:  

Kim coasts to victory, but faces wildcard with Menendez 

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) coasted to victory in the Democratic primary for the New Jersey Senate race on Tuesday, beating several longshot contenders.  

Kim was largely seen as the favorite after embattled Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) announced in March that he wouldn’t run as a Democrat. Menendez ultimately filed to run as an independent this week.  

The New Jersey senator and his wife are facing charges over allegations that he acted as an agent for the Egyptian government, among other accusations, though the senator has denied any wrongdoing.  

Democrats, including Kim, had pressed Menendez to resign, though the senator has brushed off those calls.  

Though Menendez faces a steep climb to reelection as an independent, it remains unclear how much of a spoiler he could play against Kim. If Menendez still notches a smaller but not insignificant portion of votes, it’s possible it could offer an opening to Republicans to flip the seat.  

Trump’s candidate goes down

New Jersey dealt Trump an unexpected defeat when Republicans nominated real estate developer Curtis Bashaw over Trump-backed candidate and Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner in the New Jersey GOP Senate primary. 

Most of the former president’s endorsees have won their respective GOP primaries, though New Jersey — home to vocal Trump critic Chris Christie — was one instance that proved Trump’s endorsement had its limitations.

Trump has largely steered clear of contested Senate primaries, save for a few exceptions including in Ohio, when he backed businessman Bernie Moreno over Ohio Secretary Frank LaRose (R) and state Sen. Matt Dolan (R).  

Notably, Trump has yet to weigh in on his preferred Senate candidate in Nevada, which will see one of the most competitive races for an upper chamber seat this year. The GOP Senate primary features retired Army Capt. Sam Brown, backed by Senate Republicans, and former Iceland ambassador Jeff Gunter, who served during the Trump administration.  

A good night for the New Jersey establishment

One of the clear winners from the Tuesday night primaries was the New Jersey establishment, as several candidates, including Bashaw and Rep. Rob Menendez (D-N.J.) won their respective contested primaries.  

Menendez, son of the embattled senator, survived a primary challenge from Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. Though prosecutors have not connected the Menendez son to the senator’s corruption and bribery scandal, it still dogged the House Democrat during his own reelection campaign, with Bhalla playing up Menendez’s ties to the state party.

Bashaw’s win in New Jersey was also a boost for establishment Republicans after he beat Serrano Glassner, who heavily aligned herself with Trump during the primary. Serrano Glassner called Bashaw a “coward” and described him as a “phony” ally.  

Bashaw, like Serrano Glassner, endorsed Trump for president. However, Bashaw previously gave money to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign this cycle and has previously backed a letter that considered Trump a “threat to democracy.” 

Protest votes persist for Trump, Biden 

Despite Biden and Trump both being long seen as the frontrunners for their respective parties, the two candidates have seen substantial protest votes across the country. Tuesday was no different.

By time of publication on Tuesday night, Biden had received 84 percent support in New Mexico, while the uncommitted vote — a movement largely formed in protest to his handling of the Israel-Hamas war — received close to 10 percent. Democratic longshot contender Marianne Williamson also received close to 7 percent.  

Meanwhile, Trump received 85 percent support with 76 percent of the estimated vote accounted for. But close to 15 percent of GOP primary voters voted for either Trump rival Nikki Haley, Christie or “uncommitted.” 

Haley announced last week that she would be voting for Trump, and many of the early votes cast for her in New Mexico’s primary were likely sent before she threw her support behind him. Still, her continued support suggests that a segment of the GOP primary electorate does not view Trump as their preferred candidate.

In New Jersey, meanwhile, close to 9 percent voted uncommitted, though Biden clinched 88 percent of the vote with 66 percent of the estimated vote in at time of publication.  

The results point to the growing urgency both candidates face in courting holdouts angry over their respective parties’ standard-bearers. How this will be reflected in November, however, remains to be seen.

Incumbents hold on 

The Tuesday primaries also underscored the power of incumbency, as several lawmakers dodged primary upsets.  

In addition to Menendez in New Jersey, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) dodged a primary challenge from state Rep. Tanner Smith (R), while Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) won his primary in Montana’s 1st Congressional District.

In Iowa, GOP Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Rudy Feenstra also defeated primary challengers.  

The results will likely be seen as a welcome development for both parties ahead of an already tumultuous election cycle.