Trump’s grip over GOP remains firm as Michels tops Kleefisch in Wisconsin primary face-off – Fox News

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Former President Donald Trump’s clout over the Republican Party was once again on the line in a key gubernatorial primary, and once again the former president’s endorsed candidate came out on top.

Businessman and former Army Ranger officer Tim Michels edged former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch to capture Wisconsin’s GOP nomination for governor, setting up a crucial November showdown with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in a key general election battleground state. Evers is being heavily targeted by Republicans as he seeks a second term.

“I’d like to thank President Trump for his support, for this endorsement, it meant so much. It was a tremendous validation of our meteoric rise in this campaign. He knows that we need to have new leadership in Madison,” Michels, a multimillionaire owner of a construction company who poured millions of his own money into his bid, said in his victory speech late on Tuesday night.

Trump, as he headlined a rally in Wisconsin for Michels on Friday, criticized Kleefisch, the conservative former lieutenant governor who served eight years under Gov. Scott Walker. But the former president took to social media after the AP projected Michels’s victory to urge Republican unity following a primary that turned divisive in the final weeks.

TRUMP-BACKED MICHELS EDGES PENCE-ENDORSED KLEEFISCH IN WISCONSIN

Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, left, speaks as former President Donald Trump, right, listens at a rally in Waukesha, Wis., on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, left, speaks as former President Donald Trump, right, listens at a rally in Waukesha, Wis., on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File) (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

“Congratulations to Tim Michels on his win against a wonderful and highly-competitive opponent, Rebecca Kleefisch,” Trump wrote. “I know both sides will come together and defeat one of the worst Governors in the Country, Tony Evers.”

The former president suffered some high-profile gubernatorial losses early in this year’s primary season as candidates he backed were defeated in Idaho, Nebraska, and Georgia, where conservative GOP Gov. Brian Kemp demolished the Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue.

TRUMP’S SWAY OVER REPUBLICAN PARTY STILL STRONG FOLLOWING PRIMARY VICTORIES

But Trump’s been on a roll this summer, with the gubernatorial candidates he’s endorsed and supported winning GOP primaries in Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and Arizona.

“President Trump drives Republican turnout, period,” GOP consultant Rick Wiley – who held senior roles at the Republican National Committee, the Republican Governors Association, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee – emphasized.

“This race was a toss-up going into Election Day and a Michels victory demonstrates President Trump’s ability to rally the base and push his candidate across the finish line. This was a tough race, Rebecca Kleefisch has been at the forefront of every major battle in Wisconsin over the last decade and her network is strong.  Trump rallies have a huge impact on turnout, and we saw it in Wisconsin tonight,” Wiley, a past Wisconsin GOP executive director, highlighted. 

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The Wisconsin gubernatorial primary turned into a bit of a proxy war between Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, one-time running mates who could potentially face-off against each other for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Pence recently endorsed Kleefisch and last week traveled to Wisconsin to campaign with her in suburban Milwaukee.

Former Vice President Mike Pence and GOP gubernatorial candidate and former Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch of Wisconsin participate in a round table discussion Aug. 3, 2022, in Pewaukee, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

Former Vice President Mike Pence and GOP gubernatorial candidate and former Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch of Wisconsin participate in a round table discussion Aug. 3, 2022, in Pewaukee, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File) (AP )

Michels’ victory was the second straight win for a Trump-backed candidate over a Pence-endorsed contender. The candidate Trump backed in last week’s GOP gubernatorial primary in Arizona, former TV news anchor Kari Lake, narrowly edged real estate developer and Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who was supported by Pence.

But in May, Pence came out on top as he backed Kemp and headlined a rally with the Georgia governor on the eve of Kemp’s landslide victory.

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Besides Pence, two other potential 2024 GOP White House hopefuls, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former South Carolina governor and former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, endorsed Kleefisch this summer. Haley campaigned with the former lieutenant governor and helped her fundraise.

While Trump once again enjoyed success in a gubernatorial primary, his mission to oust Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos fell short.

President Biden narrowly carried Wisconsin as he won the 2020 election, and on Friday at his rally, Trump blasted Vos for not embracing his unproven claims that his 2020 loss to Biden was due to massive voter fraud. 

While Vos — who’s the state’s longest serving Assembly speaker — launched a controversial investigation into the 2020 election in Wisconsin and took a lead in passing a series of bills that tightened voting access in the state, he’s resisted Trump’s repeated calls to try and decertify the 2020 election results. 

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Trump, who days earlier backed Adam Steen, Vos’ Republican challenger in the primary, urged those at the rally to “fire Robin Vos.”

But Vos ended up surviving, as he topped Steen by a few percentage points.

Source URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trumps-grip-gop-remains-firm-michels-tops-kleefisch-wisconsin-primary-face

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