Indiana and Ohio held their primaries last night and the big winner was Donald Trump. In fact, Trump ran the table with all 22 of his endorsed candidates winning their races.
Of course, that statement comes with an asterisk. Of the 22 victories, 13 were candidates who ran unopposed. Those races are difficult to lose.
Another seven candidates won heavy majorities, but the remaining two, like Trump in 2016, only eked out victories with far less than a majority. JD Vancewon the Ohio Senate Republican primary, the main event of the night, with only 32 percent of the vote and Madison Gesiotto Gilbert won the race for Ohio’s 13th congressional district with only 29 percent.
The Ohio Senate race was one of the most contentious races on the ballot as numerous candidates competed for the seat of the retiring Rob Portman. The Trump-backed Vance bested another pro-Trump candidate, Josh Mandel, and a Trump critic, Matt Dolan. Mandel and Dolan earned 23.9 and 23.3 percent of the vote respectively.
Vance will now face Democrat Tim Ryan, who won his race handily with 69.7 percent.
The total victory for Trump’s candidates confirms that Donald Trump has a lock on the Republican Party, but the big question is whether Trump’s favored candidates have the wherewithal to win in November.
I’d have to say that Trump’s candidates start with an advantage. Ohio has been trending more and more red in recent elections. The state has picked Republican governors for the last three cycles, last electing a Democrat in 2006. Ohio voted for Trump both times and The Former Guy actually increased his margin in 2020 by a full two points over 2016. In the state’s congressional delegation, Republicans outnumber Democrats 12 to four, and Republicans also have controlled both houses of the state legislature since 2011.
And what can you say about Indiana? It has been deep red for decades with only a few outlier years.
Ohio was once a battleground state, but these days Buckeye voters seem increasingly Republican. Tim Ryan has a pretty significant structural disadvantage to overcome.
And that’s not all. As everyone undoubtedly knows, 2022 is shaping up in a way that appears to make it a Republican year. Gas prices, inflation, a possible recession as the Fed raises rates, and a general discontent with Joe Biden all seem to favor Republicans.
If you look at electoral maps of Ohio, they tell the same tale as other states. You can tell the urban areas by the blue while red fills in the rural areas in between. To win, Democrats need to run up the tally in the cities and expand into the suburbs.
Of course, Republicans could screw it up, as I pointed out a few weeks ago. One way that they could do so is to nominate outlandish candidates. They may have done so with JD Vance, a former Never Trumper who is on record as saying calling Trump “an idiot” before making a 180-degree reversal to capture Trump’s endorsement. Vance has also been hostile to Ukraine and said that stopping illegal immigrants should have a higher priority than aiding the Ukrainians against the Russian invasion. Such pro-Russia, America First sentiment may not play well in the general election as Russian atrocities grow.
But in a state that is growing as red as Ohio, it will take a powerful dose of good fortune for a Democrat to prevail against even a bad Republican. No matter how much Republicans dislike other Republicans, they generally believe that even a bad Republican is better than a Democrat. Horror stories of drag queen story hour, excesses in public schools, and nut-picking craziness from the radical left generate a powerful culture war mojo for Republicans.
“Sure, Vance is untrustworthy and will say anything to get elected, but did you hear that the liberals are wanting to call mothers ‘birthing persons’ now?”
If there is hope for nontrumpy conservatives, it comes from the Ohio governor’s race. Trump did not make an endorsement in this race despite criticism of the incumbent, and Gov. Mike DeWine, a traditional conservative, won his race against two trumpy challengers. DeWine beat out his nearest challenger by 20 points and nearly exceeded the vote totals of the top two runner-ups.
Trump’s record in the primaries so far this year is stellar, but that doesn’t say anything about the quality of the candidates and their ability to win in the general election. It says more about their loyalty to Trump than anything else.
And Trump’s undefeated record will soon draw to a close. If his streak lasts until May 24, it will certainly end when Trump-endorsed-and-then-thrown-under-the-bus David Perdue loses to incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp. The week before Georgia, Dr. Oz will likely go down in Pennsylvania.
Still, Trump’s streak in the Republican primaries will be an impressive one. In the end, his success rate will be due to several factors including a hesitance to endorse large numbers of candidates, endorsing candidates who are unopposed or who are already likely to win, and of course Trump’s grip on the Republican Party. If Trump’s record so far proves anything, it proves that he is now the Republican establishment and that the party remains under his control.
The ultimate test of Trump’s Midas touch will be in November. Ballotpedia’s statistics on Trump endorsements show that his success rate is much stronger in primaries than in general elections. I suspect that will hold true this year, but if 2022 does turn into a red wave, his batting average may be better than previous years.