Five Takeaways From Tuesday’s Elections

A remarkable victory for abortion rights in Kansas, coupled with the defeats of some of the candidates most cut from the mold of Donald J. Trump, sent a clear signal on Tuesday that this year’s midterms are a trickier environment for uncompromising conservatives than Republicans once believed.

But there is a twist: In places where the night was roughest for the far right, the Republican Party may well benefit in November.

In Missouri, the defeat of former Gov. Eric Greitens in the Republican Senate primary means that the seat of Senator Roy Blunt, who is retiring, is likely to remain safely in G.O.P. hands.

And in Arizona, Kari Lake, the conspiracy-minded, Trump-backed candidate in the Republican governor’s race, was surprisingly trailing Karrin Taylor Robson, a rival favored by the establishment, though Ms. Lake retained a path to victory early Wednesday.

Where the Trump wing prevailed, Democrats may prosper. That is especially true in Western Michigan, where a candidate endorsed by the former president, John Gibbs, narrowly beat one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, Representative Peter Meijer. Mr. Gibbs’s victory handed Democrats a golden opportunity to grab a seat that has been redrawn to lean toward their party.

Here are five takeaways from a big election night in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Voters in deep-red Kansas delivered a loud warning shot to Republicans across the country, signaling that abortion has the potential to energize voters who the G.O.P. had hoped would remain disengaged. Democrats are likely to use the vote to try to build momentum and depict Republicans as out of step with the majority of Americans on the issue.

The vote in Kansas, which resoundingly rejected a ballot referendum that would have removed the right to abortion from the State Constitution, was the first test of Americans’ political attitudes on the issue since the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision. It revealed that from the bluest counties to the reddest ones, abortion rights outran Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s performance in the state in 2020.

As the polls began to close, Scott Schwab, the Kansas secretary of state, said election officials expected turnout to reach about 50 percent — far above the 36 percent that his office had predicted before Election Day, and particularly stunning for a primary in a nonpresidential election year.

It is too soon to tell the partisan breakdown, but early results indicated that the strength of the abortion rights side wasn’t limited to Democratic areas.

The referendum was rejected not only in moderate and increasingly blue areas like the Kansas City suburbs, but also in certain conservative parts of the state. Swing areas swung left.

As both parties look ahead to elections this fall in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona that could help decide the future of abortion rights, Kansans showed that the political winds on the issue are shifting.

For much of this year, a vote in 2021 to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol appeared to be a career-ending move for a House Republican.

Of the 10 who cast that vote, four retired before they could face the primary electorate. One, Representative Tom Rice of South Carolina, was defeated by a Trump-endorsed Republican. One, Representative David Valadao of California, survived primary night to remain on the ballot in November.

Tuesday was a major defensive stand for the anti-Trump G.O.P., with three of the remaining four Republicans who voted for impeachment facing the former president’s wrath on the ballot. Races for two in Washington, Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, were too close to call — and one, Mr. Meijer, did not survive.

There was plenty of drama. Mr. Meijer was not only battling the Trump-backed Mr. Gibbs, but also the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spent more than $400,000 on advertising meant to lift the little-known Mr. Gibbs, in hopes that he could be more easily defeated by Hillary Scholten, the Democrat, in November.

Ms. Beutler’s Trump-endorsed opponent, Joe Kent, is a square-jawed retired Army Ranger whose wife was killed by a suicide bomber in Syria. Mr. Kent has turned to the hard right, expressing sympathy for Jan. 6 rioters and repeating false claims of a stolen 2020 election.

The Democrats’ high-risk strategy of elevating an election-denying conspiracy theorist in Michigan worked for now: Mr. Gibbs will be the Republican nominee in a newly drawn seat that Mr. Biden would have won by nine percentage points in 2020. If Mr. Gibbs prevails in November, the recriminations against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will be brutal.

But if the two impeachment supporters win in Washington, it will mean that more of the 10 who faced primary voters have survived than have been defeated. Later this month, Representative Liz Cheney will be the last of the 10 to face voters.

Meanwhile, the former president’s winning streak in Republican primaries for the Senate kept rolling in Arizona, where a political newcomer, Blake Masters, captured the nomination after receiving Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

If Mr. Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is loosening slightly, his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen have persisted and spread among prominent Republican candidates. And some candidates’ primary victories on Tuesday could make the issue of democratic elections a central theme in their November general elections.

Mark Finchem, who has identified himself as a member of the Oath Keepers militia in the past and has waved around wild, false allegations of election improprieties, won the Republican nomination for secretary of state in Arizona.

He will be vying in November for a post overseeing future elections in a state that Joseph R. Biden Jr. narrowly won in 2020 and where election conspiracy theorists have wreaked havoc ever since.

In Missouri, the victor in the Republican primary for the state’s open Senate seat, Eric Schmitt, led several other state attorneys general in appealing to the Supreme Court in 2020 to take up and possibly throw out Mr. Biden’s election victory in Pennsylvania.

And in Michigan, Ms. Dixon, a conservative commentator who won the Republican nomination for governor, has wavered when questioned whether Mr. Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in her state was legitimate.

Election officials are also still fighting the conspiracy theories. In Michigan, prominent election deniers who have clung to the falsehoods of a stolen 2020 presidential contest have organized to sign up as poll workers and have forced officials to respond to a string of specious claims and concerns about safety.

In Arizona, Republican legislators who have questioned Mr. Biden’s victory in their state were calling on Tuesday for people to stake out drop boxes to ensure that no one was illegally stuffing with them ballots, according to voting rights groups and a local news report.

The decisive defeat of Mr. Greitens in Missouri’s Republican Senate primary showed that after all the tumult of the last six years, there are still lines that cannot be crossed in politics. Mr. Trump once said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and not lose any supporters.

Mr. Greitens resigned the Missouri governorship in 2018 while facing accusations that he had lured a former girlfriend to his home, tied her up, torn off her clothes, photographed her partly naked, threatened to release the pictures if she talked and coerced her into performing oral sex.

He thought he could make a political comeback as a United States senator. Even after his former wife accused him in a sworn affidavit of physically abusing her and one of their young sons, he pressed on, denying the allegations and arguing that his accusers had been manipulated by establishment RINOs, or Republicans in name only.

Early Wednesday, Mr. Greitens had mustered less than 19 percent of the vote, a distant third-place finish. Mud that rancid still sticks.

Governor Whitmer has maintained much higher approval ratings than Mr. Biden as she has led Michigan through a pandemic, an economic crisis and a dam collapse.

But she could face a tough competitor in Ms. Dixon, who managed to unite warring factions of her party allied with Mr. Trump and the state’s wealthy DeVos family. Ms. Dixon has said she decided to run for office out of her anger over Ms. Whitmer’s policies, particularly health restrictions early in the pandemic that were among the most stringent in the country.

Races in Arizona and Kansas could prove to be even tighter.

In Arizona, Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state and now the party’s nominee for governor, has emerged as a high-profile defender of the state’s 2020 election results who has weathered death threats that prompted round-the-clock security from state troopers.

She could be squaring off against Ms. Taylor Robson, who as of early Wednesday appeared to be leading the Trump-backed Ms. Lake. Ms. Taylor Robson has the endorsements of former Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term-limited, as well as other prominent Republicans.

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, will face Derek Schmidt, the Trump-backed state attorney general. It is a tough landscape for Democrats, but Ms. Kelly’s approval ratings are relatively strong. A former state senator, she rose to higher office in 2018 after defeating Kris W. Kobach, a Republican known for specious warnings about election fraud and illegal immigration. Mr. Kobach won the Republican primary for Kansas attorney general on Tuesday.

Maggie Astor and Nate Cohn contributed reporting.


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