President Trump endorsed Mooney, while much of the West Virginia political establishment backed McKinley, including Governor Jim Justice (R-W.V.), Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. McKinley came under fire for voting in favor of Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, claiming that it was good for the state. Mooney, as the Republican nominee, is now the overwhelming favorite to win the general election.
In Nebraska, President Trump saw his first primary loss of the year in the gubernatorial primary. Trump had backed businessman Charles Herbster, who was an early supporter of Trump’s first campaign in 2015, had served as an agriculture adviser on President Trump’s re-election campaign, and had previously run for governor in 2014. But Herbster suddenly found himself at the center of numerous unsubstantiated allegations of sexual harassment after announcing his candidacy, reminiscent of the infamous MeToo movement that often sought to bring down political figures by manufacturing false claims of misconduct.
As a result, outgoing Governor Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) endorsed farmer and University of Nebraska Board of Regents member Jim Pillen. After a close race on Tuesday night that saw Herbster close the gap substantially, Pillen ultimately emerged victorious with 34 percent to Herbster’s 30 percent.
The Nebraska results came as President Trump seeks to solidify his status as kingmaker of the GOP, which has proven successful more often than not. Last Tuesday, President Trump’s endorsement made all the difference in the crucial primary for Ohio’s open seat in the U.S. Senate, being vacated by retiring Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, after mostly polling in third and fourth place in a field of five major candidates, surged into first after receiving Trump’s endorsement, ultimately winning the nomination in a landslide.
There are several more hotly-contested primaries ahead where President Trump has made his endorsement, sometimes with controversy and disagreement among conservatives. The next primaries, set for May 17th, will see the states of Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania go to the polls.
In Pennsylvania, Trump has endorsed television host and surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz in the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), though Oz is facing a close race against hedge fund manager David McCormick and pro-life activist Kathy Barnette. In North Carolina, President Trump’s pick for the U.S. Senate, Congressman Ted Budd (R-N.C.), is currently the favorite to win over former Governor Pat McCrory (R-N.C.), in the race to succeed retiring Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.). And in Idaho, Trump has thrown his support behind Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin (R-Idaho), who is challenging her boss, incumbent Governor Brad Little (R-Idaho), for the governorship. Polling in that race seems to suggest that Little is currently the favorite to win the nomination.
According to Ballotpedia, President Trump has made a total of 472 endorsements since 2017. Of those, only five of his endorsements from 2017 to 2021 lost their primaries: Luther Strange in Alabama’s 2017 special election to the U.S. Senate, Foster Friess in the 2018 Wyoming gubernatorial race, Congressman Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) in 2020, Lynda Bennett in North Carolina’s 11th congressional district in 2020, and Susan Wright in the special election for Texas’s 6th congressional district in 2021. Herbster’s loss in Nebraska now brings that total to 6.