Former President Donald Trump has vindicated his influence within the Republican Party in the May 3 primary election in Ohio, in which his endorsement helped to propel Senate candidate J.D. Vance to a decisive victory over a competitive field of potential nominees. Vance surged past his opponents to claim 32.2% of the vote, while second-place candidate Josh Mandel lagged behind with 23.9% despite appearing to be the frontrunner for much of the race.
Ohio race is victory for Trump
The Ohio Senate race became arguably the most important in the country for Trump after he threw his support behind Vance against the wishes of much of the GOP.
Important allies of the former president and other influential figures in the party supported Mandel or one of the other candidates, and Trump was repeatedly urged to stay out of the race.
One common objection was the fact that Vance had openly condemned Trump during the 2016 campaign, something that his opponents heavily emphasized in their own campaigns.
Trump himself acknowledged this but assured his supporters that Vance now “gets it” and is serious about having changed his mind on the Trump administration.
A more practical concern from Trump’s allies was the fact that, at the time of his endorsement, Vance was stuck in third place behind two other Republican candidates.
Had he stayed in that position it would have been an embarrassing defeat for Trump, who had gambled on his ability to influence the race in Vance’s favor.
Vance faces Democrat Tim Ryan
That support was a major contributor to the outcome of the race, but Vance had already built a strong campaign that was well positioned for victory and impressed Trump more than the alternatives.
The “Hillbilly Elegy” author has positioned himself on the increasingly strong wing of the party which has formed loosely around influential Republicans like Tucker Carlson and Peter Thiel.
For other factions within the party who dislike these circles this result is a bitter blow. The general election in Ohio will strongly favor any Republican and Vance will likely be a United States senator next year.
That is another victory for Trump, assuming that he plans to run again in 2024. Should he return to the White House he will have a much stronger ally from Ohio than retiring Senator Rob Portman.
First Vance will have to defeat Representative Tim Ryan, who easily won the Democratic nomination. Ryan sought the presidency in 2020 but failed to gain any significant support.
The Republican nominee will now have to work to rally conservatives and independents to win the general election after one of the year’s more contentious primary races.