Last Tuesday, Alabama congresswoman Martha Roby was held to 39 percent of the vote in the Republican primary in apparent punishment for her long-ago disavowal of Donald Trump after the Access Hollywood tape surfaced in October 2016. Roby faces a tough July 17 runoff election, where she will need to win an outright majority of votes in order to salvage her congressional career. This Tuesday, fellow House member and ex-governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina lost his own race for renomination to another Republican challenger whose main line of attack against Sanford cited his penchant for criticizing Trump.
Scattered election results don't always add up to a pattern—Sanford, in particular, carries his own personal baggage that long predates Trump's ascendance—but Tuesday brought another revealing set of outcomes in Virginia. Two-term Republican congresswoman Barbara Comstock represents a district that Hillary Clinton carried over Trump in 2016, yet her own party's voters do not appear to have much patience for her attempts to maintain an independent political persona in order to preserve her general-election viability. Without much advance warning, a relative unknown challenger from the right held Comstock to just 61 percent of the vote in the Virginia Republican primary. At the same time, Republican primary voters in northern Virginia provided Corey Stewart, an outspoken defender of the state's Confederate heritage, with the margin he needed to capture the party's U.S. Senate nomination.
One might expect that the population of wealthy, well-educated, professional, politically-connected Republicans who reside within the Washington suburbs would render northern Virginia about as promising a place as anywhere in the country to find a GOP electorate that was relatively skeptical of Trump and Trumpism. But there's little trace of such sentiments within the latest primary returns, in Virginia or elsewhere. In fact, it's hard to identify a single consistuency nationwide where Republicans are sufficiently numerous to realistically compete in general elections but where separation from Trump, even in muted form, is devoid of serious political risk for party candidates.
Open criticism of the current president from within the ranks of Republican officials is thus likely to be restricted to the handful of retiring incumbents—Jeff Flake, John McCain, Bob Corker, John Kasich—who no longer fear retribution from their own party's voters. Other Republicans may grumble on background to reporters about the current administration, but the message they hear from their voters these days is, at least in their perception, a demand for unconditional public loyalty. This state of affairs is only likely to change if the conservative media, now acting as the most powerful source of opinion leadership within the Republican Party, sours on Trump—which hardly seems possible in the immediate future.
It's not just Republican voters who are preoccupied with Trump these days. The abrupt surge in the share of women nominated for Congress by Democratic primary electorates that I discussed last month has remained intact through the recent round of primaries, representing an unmistakable response to Trump's election.
As of this week, a majority of states have now held primary elections for the 2018 midterms, and it is safe to say that the number of female House nominees on the Democratic side will set a historical record by a wide margin. In fact, Democrats have nominated 74 non-incumbent women for the House so far, which already exceeds the all-time high number (73) reached by the party in the 2012 election—with 24 states yet to hold primaries this year and several others with unresolved runoffs. Currently, 41 percent of Democratic House nominees are women, including 48 percent of non-incumbent nominees (see below). More than a year into his presidency, the shadow cast by Trump over both sides of American politics seems only to be growing in size.