The 2018 primaries: Is the 'big, blue wave' a big reality or a big dud?

Talk of the supposed big, blue wave that would sweep Democrats to majority control of the House and Senate in the November elections has subsided in recent weeks. Democrats have come to the realization that President Trump – as polarizing as he is – may not be the electoral drag on the GOP that that his opponents had expected him to be.

Voters in Utah, South Carolina, New York, Colorado, Maryland, Oklahoma and Mississippi cast ballots in primary and runoff contests Tuesday that could have a big impact on which party controls each chamber of Congress.

The impact of the president on election results remains underdetermined, due in no small part to his own mercurial personality. At times the president seems to have grown into the job of chief executive, as he did during his recent summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

But unfortunately for Republican members of Congress who will be on the ballot in November, President Trump continues to commit a lot of unforced errors that could, at the right time, spell disaster for the GOP in the battle for control of Congress and the survival of the president’s agenda.

Voters Tuesday were picking candidates for the U.S. Senate and House, and in some states for governor and other state offices.

President Trump, who was a key factor in several primary races two weeks ago, may again help tip the balance in more than one race.

Here’s a look at the key races:


In Utah, former GOP presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faced off against GOP state Rep. Mike Kennedy for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

Romney failed to win the party endorsement at the GOP state nominating convention held earlier in the year. He was considered by many to be the frontrunner in the race, but some private polls suggested Kennedy was a stronger candidate than many people believe.

That may have more to do with Romney’s tenuous connection to Utah than with the criticism he has expressed of candidate and President Trump. If there’s an upset brewing anywhere in America, this might be it.


In South Carolina, the president’s last-minute intervention on the part of state Rep. Katie Arrington may have helped push her past the critical 50 percent mark, allowing her to topple GOP incumbent and anti-Trump U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford. The president was hoping to pull Republican Gov. Henry McMaster over the finish line in his runoff race Tuesday.

President Trump appeared at a last-minute “get out the vote” rally on behalf of McMaster in the state Monday night. While McMaster finished first in the earlier Republican primary balloting, he did not garner enough votes to avoid a runoff with businessman and first-time candidate John Warren.

President Trump is banking on a McMaster win to show his political support matters – at least in heavily GOP territory like South Carolina. The president went so far as to tell the crowd at the rally that the national media would mock him if the governor is denied nomination.


Voters in New York cast ballot only for federal offices. Most national attention was focused on the GOP primary in the 11th Congressional District, comprised mostly of the borough of Staten Island in New York City.

In that race incumbent Congressman Dan Donovan, a former district attorney, faced a challenge from the man who preceded him in the seat, former FBI agent Michael Grimm, who resigned from the House and served time in prison after being convicted of tax fraud.

President Trump endorsed Donovan. But Grimm, who ran a Trump-like campaign, boasted of his outsider status and called himself a victim of the “deep state.”

Most of the other primaries of interest in the state – the balloting for state office comes in September – centered on races where progressive Democrats in the Bernie Sanders mold challenged traditional liberals for the Democratic nomination in seats held by both parties.

Democratic House incumbents facing challenges including Manhattan’s Carolyn Maloney; Joe Crowley of Queens; and Eliot Engel, whose district runs from the Bronx up into Westchester County.

These contests mirror the battle for the future of the Democratic Party in New York state being waged between Gov. Andrew Cuomo – a potential presidential candidate in 2020, seeking third term as the state’s chief executive – and Cynthia Nixon, one of the stars of the HBO mega-hit “Sex in the City.” She ran as an unabashed progressive.


In Colorado, voters in the 2nd Congressional District located to the north and west of Denver will be picking a replacement for Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, the progressive multimillionaire making a bid for governor. Democrats are almost certain to hold the seat in November.

Most of the attention in House contests on the GOP side is focused on U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, who represents the area around Colorado Springs and who, despite winning re-election in 2016 with 62 percent of the vote, always manages to have a tough primary.

This cycle Lamborn was booted off the ballot after his campaign was found to have violated the rules for collection of signatures for nominating petitions, only to have him put back in the race by a federal judge. The anti-Lamborn vote is split four ways this time, making his victory likely but still keeping this a race to watch.


The marquee race in Maryland is the Democratic primary to pick what will most likely be sacrificial lamb to go up against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, a man who popularity is high despite his party affiliation in a state dominated by Democrats.

President Trump could be a drag here in November, but Hogan is thought to have the upper hand against either of the Democrats he is likely to face: former NAACP president Ben Jealous, who is running as a progressive in the Sanders mold; and the more traditionally liberal Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.


There’s a crowded field of candidates on both sides of the aisle looking to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Mary Fallon in Oklahoma.

The state’s congressional incumbents are all generally considered safe, though voters will be asked to pick nominees in Tulsa-based open 1st District seat now that it’s former occupant, GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Brindenstine has left Congress to run NASA.


Voters in Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District, which runs through the middle part of the state, were deciding which GOP candidate they want to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Harper.

Democrats statewide were picking their candidate to go up against Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker in November, in a race everyone expects Wicker to win easily.