Republican J.D. Vance prevailed in his crowded Senate primary after securing a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump as other Trump-endorsed candidates leveraged his support to pull off victories in Ohio’s primaries on Tuesday night.
Trump’s political influence is on the line as he makes big bets during the 2022 midterm elections and weighs whether to make another run for president in 2024. While it’s still early in the primary season, his success in Ohio indicates that his support can bolster Republican candidates, particularly in races with no clear front-runner.
Vance, a venture capitalist and author, won a seven-way primary where he was largely outspent by his competitors, many of whom were self-funders who plowed millions of their own money into the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
Trump threw his support behind Vance less than three weeks before Tuesday’s primary, despite the GOP candidate’s previous criticisms of the former president. The 11th-hour endorsement appeared to buoy Vance in a race that had no breakout candidate for months. The “Hillbilly Elegy” author saw his poll numbers rise in the final days of the race and after Trump held a rally in Ohio to campaign for Vance.
Vance will now square off in November’s general election against Rep. Tim Ryan, who handily secured the Democratic nod on Tuesday night over progressive challenger Morgan Harper. Democrats see Ryan as someone who could outperform in Ohio, but many acknowledge the headwinds for picking up the GOP-held seat especially in a generally tough environment where the party of the president typically loses seats in the midterms.
Ohio, once a perennial swing state, has turned redder over the past six years with Trump winning by a margin of 8 percentage points in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Even with the changing political environment in Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown has been the one Democrat to have recent success statewide, easily winning reelection in 2018.
While Republican candidates in Ohio and elsewhere clamored for Trump’s support, he decided to stay out of a few notable races, including the governor’s race. Gov. Mike DeWine easily beat back challenges from his opponents who ran to the right of him, including Jim Renacci. The former congressman won Trump’s endorsement when he unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2018, but Renacci didn’t land it this time in the race to unseat DeWine.
In Republican primaries for House races, other candidates who were endorsed or aligned with Trump also clinched the GOP nominations in their respective races.
A former Trump aide, Max Miller was originally endorsed by Trump to take on Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of 10 House Republicans to impeach the former president for his handling of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Gonzalez ultimately decided to retire.
After the redistricting process drew new congressional lines in Ohio, Miller ended up in Rep. Bob Gibbs’ district, who is also retiring at the end of the term. Miller easily won the primary despite accusations of domestic violence by his ex-girlfriend Stephanie Grisham, who previously served as Trump’s press secretary. He has denied the claims and is suing for defamation.
Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, an attorney and another former Trump staffer who co-chaired the Women for Trump advisory board, also prevailed in the primary for Ohio’s 13th District, which is another open seat vacated by Ryan when he announced his Senate bid.
Some candidates running on Tuesday, meanwhile, didn’t have Trump’s endorsement but appeared to pull off a victory by closely aligning themselves with the former president.
Political newcomer J.R. Majewski, who had a mural of Trump on his lawn, narrowly won a surprise victory after being outspent by two competitors who both serve in the state legislature. He goes on to face Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who’s been in Congress since 1983.
While he had a good night in Ohio, Trump’s influence and endorsements will be further put to the test for the rest of the month – and beyond – with competitive House and Senate primaries in North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Georgia.