Republican primary voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina cast their ballots yesterday in an early test of what kind of GOP the Democrats will face in November. Lessons learned on Tuesday indicate Donald Trump remains a force within the party, but neither the sole nor necessarily decisive one.

Swing-state Pennsylvania hosted a three-way brawl to win the Republican nod to vie for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who had become increasingly critical of Trump toward the end of his term. The former president endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz, a TV personality, while the Republican establishment strongly supported hedge-fund millionaire David McCormick. But it was the emergence of firebrand Kathy Barnette who came to embody Trumpism without Trump.

An African-American who was raised on a pig farm in Alabama, Barnette put herself through college and went on to serve seven years in the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard while studying corporate finance. In this race, she became the fire-breathing spokeswoman of America First, and surged in its final days despite being outspent by more than 10:1, calling herself the “trusted conservative.”

Explaining her fierce opposition to abortion, Barnette said she was a product of a rape of her then 11-year old mother by a 21-year old man. Arguably her biography and plainspoken style was closer to the Trump base than her big name opponents.

In the end, Barnette fell seven points short while Oz appears to have a razor-thin lead over McCormick, so small in fact that the race has yet to be called. The fact that Barnette became a contender at all against her big-name, big-money competitors is in itself remarkable. So, too, is the fact her message oozed Trumpism even though she hadn’t received the Donald’s nod. She was not, the chattering class foretold, “electable” in the general.

With his influence on the line after his endorsement of Dr. Oz, Trump criticized Barnette, who shot back that the former president was a diminished force. Pointing to his loss by over 20 points in her Pennsylvania district, Barnette asked “who’s more electable with those numbers?”

Meanwhile, Trump’s chosen cherub in North Carolina was the scandal plagued Madison Cawthorne, full-throated advocate of the Big Lie and cheerleader of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol last year. The National Review endorsed Cawthorne’s rival, as did the state’s Republican establishment. Like Marjorie Taylor-Green and Matt Gaetz, Cawthorne had become one of Trump’s personal demons.

And he lost.

A couple of interesting things were clarified by last night’s results. First, Republicans are beginning to police themselves, as the evisceration of Madison Cawthorne shows. Realizing what a disaster the poster boy-turned-troll had become, party elders in North Carolina took him out behind the shed and finished him off. Second, we saw that Trump’s power might be transitive, as Dr. Oz’s yet-to-be-affirmed lead suggests, but not without limits, as Cawthorne’s laid bare.

The North Carolina race in particular reminded me of an excursion I made to Alabama in 2017 to help a retired Marine colonel keep Roy Moore out of the Senate. Trump had backed Moore, who was alleged to have groomed underage girls in a shopping mall, yet even the then-president’s vocal endorsement ended up being too little to get the disgraced judge over the finish line in one of the most conservative states in the nation.

For Republicans who share my belief that the party would be better off without Donald Trump, that is good news. So far, his record is zero: maybe one. But again, last night’s results were mixed and Pennsylvania remains undecided. It’s a long road to November, and the only thing we know for sure is that more surprises are likely to be in store.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.