SPOTLIGHT

Primary Concern

All but one of the most vulnerable Republican senators backed Trump on Thursday.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., listens as President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, answers questions during a third round on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Kyle Trygstad
March 15, 2019, 7:06 a.m.

The vote Thursday on a resolution of disapproval for President Trump’s border emergency declaration made it clear which reelection hurdle Republican senators up in 2020 fear more, the primary or the general. (Hint: It's the first one.)

By standing with Trump, nearly all of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents essentially said they preferred to handle any blowback from Democrats than invite a pesky intraparty challenge and, likely, Trump’s wrath. That includes Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, three of the top Democratic targets.

Sure, it was embarrassing for Trump to have a dozen fellow Republicans publicly rebuke him as he reaches on a mechanism to follow through on his 2016 campaign’s central promise. But the votes by the Senate’s most endangered only highlighted the strength of the president’s grip on the party.

Quinnipiac and Monmouth polls conducted in the first few days of March both found Trump backed by at least 82 percent of Republicans, which—after the midterm shellacking, the shutdown showdown letdown, and drama related to the Mueller investigation—is right where he was in the same surveys taken a year earlier, if not a few points better.

-- Kyle Trygstad

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