Major takeaways: Trump passes test as kingmaker in Ohio
Primaries in Ohio and Indiana on Tuesday were the first real test of former President Donald Trump’s status as the Republican Party’s kingmaker — and he succeeded.
Takeaways from races:
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRUMP
Trump’s chosen nominee, “Hillbilly Elegy” author and former investment banker JD Vance, won the crowded Republican U.S. Senate primary in Ohio, giving Trump a strong start to the primary season.
Vance, former state treasurer Josh Mandel, businessman Mike Gibbons and former GOP chairwoman Jane Timken all vied for Trump’s endorsement, increasingly adopting language that reflected the style explosive populism of the former president. Ultimately, Trump went with Vance, who in 2016 said the famed businessman could become “America’s Hitler,” but has since become a staunch supporter.
Vance wooed the former president by echoing his bashing of immigrants, his skepticism of US military involvement abroad — even in favor of Ukraine — and his lies about Trump’s election defeat. of 2020. Trailing in the polls when he received Trump’s endorsement three weeks ago, Vance made it a centerpiece of his closing speech and edged out his rivals.
Vance will face Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Ryan in November’s general election as they vie for the seat held by incumbent GOP Senator Rob Portman. Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2020, and the state swung right under his influence. Replacing Portman, a traditional Republican and non-Trump fan, with Vance would move the Senate in the direction of the former president.
ELECTORAL NEGATIVE POWER
Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose easily survived a primary challenge from John Adams, who denies President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and portrayed himself as a full-throated skeptic of the systems modern voting systems.
But Ohio’s Republican primary still shows the power that Trump’s campaign lies have on his party’s base. An AP-NORC poll last year found that two-thirds of Republicans believe Biden was not legitimately elected, even though the contest was free of significant voter fraud and investigations, audits and court cases repeated have refuted Trump’s claims.
LaRose initially said the 2020 election was safe and precise, but as the primary neared, he began to echo some of Trump’s talking points. He claimed there were problems in other states and touted his office’s work in cracking down on voter fraud.
Trump endorsed LaRose, a longtime supporter. Since Ohio was not a battleground and Trump easily won the state, the incumbent secretary of state never got on the wrong side in the days following his 2020 defeat.
By contrast, in the swing state of Michigan — one of the states Trump claimed to win in 2020, though he actually lost it — Trump endorsed an election conspiracy theorist, Kristina Karamo. She won the GOP nomination for secretary of state last month. Many other Trump-backed Holocaust deniers are participating in the upcoming Republican primaries.
Trump and his populist supporters have rocked their party and pushed its incumbents into Trump’s leadership in many places, but one weak spot so far has been the governor’s mansions.
Ohio was the clearest example. Trump lambasted Republican Gov. Mike DeWine for his tough coronavirus policies in 2020, but DeWine was victorious in the primaries. He will face Democrat Nan Whaley in the general election. Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton, is the first woman nominated by a major party for governor of Ohio.
Ohio isn’t the only place where a GOP governor is well positioned against a primary challenger. Idaho’s Brad Little has a solid fundraising advantage against his conservative opponent, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp is a heavy favorite against former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump recruited to punish Kemp for failing to support his campaign lies and certifying Biden’s victory in the state.
Governors are helped by their tenure, the wide range of popular conservative policies they can announce, and the federal coronavirus relief that has eased pressure on state budgets. DeWine, for example, beat his haters by millions of dollars and was able to benefit from, for example, chip company Intel’s announcement to invest $20 million in the state.
DeWine received another boost because his opposition was split between former U.S. Representative Jim Renacci and farmer Joe Blystone. Trump did not make an endorsement in the race.
DEMOCRATS REJECT THE LEFT, AGAIN
In the Cleveland area, Democratic Rep. Shontel Brown defeated former state Senator Nina Turner in another battle between the party establishment and progressive wings.
Turner co-chaired Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential primary campaign and lost to Brown in last year’s special election for the seat after its previous occupant, Marcia Fudge, became housing and urban development secretary. Biden. Turner ran again, hoping the district would be more supportive of her approach after it was redrawn to include more Democratic areas.
No chance. Brown’s easy win is a reminder that the left has a very uneven record in the Democratic primaries, picking up some high-profile victories like that of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, but more importantly a long losing streak. Trump may have changed the Republican primaries, but the Democratic primaries still lean toward the same establishment that has ruled the party for decades.
IN INDIANA, HOLDER BEAT ‘FREEDOM’
Legislative races in Indiana have shown the incumbent’s power, even amid growing conservative anger.
Activists enraged by state coronavirus restrictions organized about two dozen so-called freedom candidates to confront GOP primary lawmakers they saw as too supportive of the Republican governor’s public health measures Eric Holcomb. The picture was mixed Tuesday night, with many of those races not called.
But the challengers have repeatedly failed to take on incumbent lawmakers. An incumbent targeted as too close to the party establishment lost his primary, but so did an incumbent who encouraged freedom candidates. And in at least 10 other races, freedom candidates have failed.
It’s a reminder that even in Trump’s GOP, conservative insurgents don’t always have an easy path against incumbents.
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