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Vance’s Ohio Senate Victory Isn’t a Big Win for Trump

May 05, 2022
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After a bruising seven-way primary in Ohio, Donald Trump’s choice for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination—venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance—won Tuesday. His victory showed the strength of Mr. Trump’s support among Republicans, as well as its limitations.

The last poll before Mr. Trump endorsed on April 15—taken by the Trafalgar Group—showed Mr. Vance at about 23%, trailing former Treasurer Josh Mandel, who held 28%. Both candidates were ahead of businessman Mike Gibbons at 14%, state Sen. Matt Dolan at a little under 12%, former state GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken at just below 8%, and two others who together held roughly 3%. About 13% of voters were undecided.

Tuesday, Mr. Vance won with 32%, followed by Mr. Mandel at 24%, Mr. Dolan at 23%, Mr. Gibbons at 12% and Ms. Timken at 6%—with about 3% going to the remaining two candidates.

Mr. Trump’s last-minute help for the new GOP Senate nominee didn’t end with his endorsement. The former president’s support led tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel to give Mr. Vance’s super PAC $3.5 million for ads during the primary’s final two weeks. Together Messrs. Trump and Thiel drew most late deciders into the Vance column. Without that one-two punch of endorsement and last-minute ad blitz, it’s likely someone else would be the GOP’s general-election standard-bearer.

Still, while Mr. Trump’s endorsement made the critical difference, only 1 of 11 Ohio Republicans followed Mr. Trump’s call to fall in line as Mr. Vance’s share grew from 23% in the last pre-endorsement poll to 32% on Election Day. His 9% bump was overshadowed by the rise of Mr. Dolan, who nearly doubled his share of the vote after Mr. Trump announced his late-in-the-race endorsement. Almost 68% of Ohio Republicans ignored or rejected the former president’s call to join in his “Complete and Total Endorsement” of Mr. Vance.

It didn’t help that many Trumpers didn’t like Mr. Vance. Ohio Republican county party officials and national convention delegates who were Trump loyalists publicly expressed their displeasure with the former president’s decision.

The gubernatorial primary in Ohio also highlighted the limits of Mr. Trump’s sway. While the former president didn’t endorse any candidate outright in the four-way race, he made it clear that incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine wasn’t a favorite, calling him a “terrible governor” and a “terrible, terrible guy” at an April 23 rally for Mr. Vance. Still, Mr. DeWine was comfortably renominated, proving that candidates can survive a denunciation by the former president.

After a bruising seven-way primary in Ohio, Donald Trump’s choice for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination—venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance—won Tuesday. His victory showed the strength of Mr. Trump’s support among Republicans, as well as its limitations.

The last poll before Mr. Trump endorsed on April 15—taken by the Trafalgar Group—showed Mr. Vance at about 23%, trailing former Treasurer Josh Mandel, who held 28%. Both candidates were ahead of businessman Mike Gibbons at 14%, state Sen. Matt Dolan at a little under 12%, former state GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken at just below 8%, and two others who together held roughly 3%. About 13% of voters were undecided.

Tuesday, Mr. Vance won with 32%, followed by Mr. Mandel at 24%, Mr. Dolan at 23%, Mr. Gibbons at 12% and Ms. Timken at 6%—with about 3% going to the remaining two candidates.

Mr. Trump’s last-minute help for the new GOP Senate nominee didn’t end with his endorsement. The former president’s support led tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel to give Mr. Vance’s super PAC $3.5 million for ads during the primary’s final two weeks. Together Messrs. Trump and Thiel drew most late deciders into the Vance column. Without that one-two punch of endorsement and last-minute ad blitz, it’s likely someone else would be the GOP’s general-election standard-bearer.

Read More at the WSJ

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