President loses a talking point as Trump-backed Republicans lose

Team Trump made quite a fuss about his "undefeated" record in backing candidates in 2020 primaries. That talking point has now evaporated.
Image: People vote in the U.S. presidential election at Santa Monica City Hall
People vote in the U.S. presidential election at Santa Monica City Hall on Nov. 8, 2016 in Santa Monica, California.AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Three weeks ago today, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany started her briefing by bragging about the primary elections held the day before. "President Trump has now endorsed candidates and has a 64-to-0 record in congressional, special, and primary election races since the midterms," she said, "demonstrating the strength of and support for the president's agenda across the country as evidenced in the 64 consecutive congressional, special, and primary elections over the past 13 months."

A week later, in the wake of another round of GOP primaries, the Republican National Committee's Steve Guest went a little further, boasting on Twitter that Donald Trump has an "undefeated 73-0 record of candidate endorsements in congressional primary and special elections this cycle." Guest added that this record was "an emphatic reminder" of the "enthusiasm" surrounding the president.

As talking points go, this was a narrow one. Trump-backed candidates suffered plenty of defeats in 2018 and 2019, and his "undefeated 73-0 record" was built almost entirely on the results of primary elections.

Nevertheless, the streak has been snapped. A few days after Steve Guest's online victory lap, Trump encouraged Republicans in Virginia's 5th district to back Rep. Denver Riggleman's (R) re-election, but locals ignored the president's advice. Yesterday, it happened again -- twice.

Voters rebuffed President Donald Trump and nominated two Republicans he opposed to House seats from North Carolina and Kentucky on Tuesday.

In North Carolina's 11th congressional district -- a seat that former Rep. Mark Meadows (R) held before becoming the White House chief of staff -- Trump backed GOP activist Lynda Bennett. Local Republicans didn't care, and instead nominated Madison Cawthorn, a 24-year-old motivational speaker.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky's 4th congressional district, the president wanted GOP voters to oust incumbent Rep. Thomas Massie (R) -- Trump called him a "third-rate grandstander" whom the president wants to "throw out" of the Republican Party -- but the congressman cruised to an easy victory yesterday.

To be sure, I'd caution against over-interpreting the results, and it'd be a stretch to suggest that the GOP's rank-and-file are abandoning Trump based on these primary outcomes.

But the president and his allies made quite a fuss about his "undefeated" record in these contests, pointing to his streak as proof of "the strength of and support for the president's agenda across the country." The idea, evidently, was to suggest that Trump's control over Republican politics was, for all intents and purposes, complete.

That talking point looks quite a bit weaker this morning.