Take heart, Senate Republicans. On a night when Donald Trump was celebrating his primary victories in states across the nation, results from a GOP Senate primary in Alabama suggest that maybe some Trump supporters can still tell the difference between all Washington incumbents and their own incumbent.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) won his five-way primary on Tuesday night. He had 64 percent of the vote with almost half of precincts reporting. The 81-year-old will avoid a runoff against one of his little-known challengers and probably will win a sixth term to the Senate in November.
For Senate Republicans worried about the Trump Effect on their ability to keep control of the chamber in November, Shelby’s win is good news. It suggests that Republican voters’ frustration with the status quo, as symbolized by Trump’s likelier-than-ever nomination, may not extend to their own members of Congress.
Early indications from reporters on the ground in Alabama were that Trump supporters wanted an outsider for president — he won the state by a whopping 25 points — but didn’t mind also voting to send a 30-year-plus veteran back to Congress:
Of course, when it comes to Trump, there’s always some bad news for the Republican establishment. As we noted earlier Tuesday, Shelby’s win came with a hefty price tag to ensure he survived the anti-incumbent wave that he knew was about to sweep his state.
Shelby spent at least $5 million this year blanketing the Alabama airwaves, pitching all the work he has done for the state and even lobbing attacks at Wall Street and his little-known opponent, 33-year-old Iraq War veteran Jonathan McConnell. A man who has taken less than 63 percent of the vote just once in nine Senate and House races felt the need to spend big to make sure Alabama recognized the value he brings to the state as a senior senator.
It looks like all of that paid off. On the whole, though, how hard one of the most senior members of Congress worked to avoid a runoff against unknown challengers is probably little consolation for Senate Republicans who are rightly concerned about Trump’s effect on their incumbents, mostly in the general election.
So far, so good, though, for the first Senate Republican to share a ballot with Donald Trump. Senate Republicans will take what they can get this election cycle.