A liberal Florida Democrat pulled off an upset victory Tuesday in the state's primary for governor while President Trump's favored candidate cruised to victory for the GOP, setting up a fierce fall showdown in the nation's largest political battleground. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who would be the state's first black governor, and Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, both defeated opponents aligned with their parties' establishments.
President Trump hailed Tuesday's wins for the Republican party, tweeting early Wednesday "The Republican Party will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! Actually, it is happening faster than anybody thought possible! It is morphing into KEEP AMERICA GREAT!"
In Arizona, Rep. Martha McSally fended off a pair of conservative challengers to carry the Republican Senate primary to fill the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake. That race was shadowed by the death of John McCain, a towering figure who represented Arizona in the Senate for six terms. Gov. Doug Ducey will name McCain's replacement after the senator's funeral.
Though McCain has received praise from far and wide this week, the three Republican candidates running to replace his retiring seat-mate, Flake - including establishment favorite McSally - aligned themselves more with the president than the longtime senator.
Florida and Arizona are both closely watched states, featuring growing minority populations that have bolstered Democratic candidates and Republican electorates that have grown older and more conservative. The fall face-offs could well signal how they'll swing in the 2020 presidential election.
In Florida, DeSantis gave Mr. Trump credit for his victory, saying that with one supportive tweet, the president "kind of put me on the map." Gillum thanked supporters who embraced "our plan for a state that makes room for all of us, not just the well-heeled and the well-connected, but all of us."
The results immediately transformed the Florida race into one of the key gubernatorial campaigns in the country. Gillum's primary victory could help Democrats boost enthusiasm among minorities who often don't vote in large numbers in years when a presidential candidate isn't on the ballot. Meanwhile, DeSantis will test Mr. Trump's grip on a crucial state he won in 2016 and wants to keep in his column in 2020.
DeSantis was one of several Republicans running in contests Tuesday in Florida and Arizona - another closely watched political battleground - who hoped that cozying up to the president would be rewarded by voters. The president has thrust himself into the forefront of the midterm campaign in hopes of motivating his supporters and offsetting Democratic enthusiasm.
Elsewhere Tuesday, GOP voters in reliably Republican Oklahoma backed mortgage company owner Kevin Stitt in a runoff for the gubernatorial nomination. Stitt won in part by criticizing his opponent as insufficiently supportive of Mr. Trump.