COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Republicans will vote Tuesday in one of the most contentious and closely watched elections. The US Senate primary, which decides a race that is an early referendum on former President Donald Trump’s control of the Republican Party as the midterm primary season. high speed kicks.
Author and venture capitalist JD Vance is well positioned in the Republican race to replace retired Senator Rob Portman after receiving the support of Trump in the last stagecapping off a bitter and costly contest that, at one point, saw two candidates nearly come to blows on a discussion stage. The winner is likely to face 10-term Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan.who has distanced himself from the progressive wing of his party ahead of what is expected to be a brutal year for Democrats seeking to maintain their majorities in Congress.
Incumbent Republican Governor Mike DeWine he appears on track to secure his party’s nomination for another term, despite backlash from Conservatives over COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates. Meanwhile, in Indiana, more than a dozen members of the state House are trying to hold off Republican primary candidates who want to push the Legislature further to the right.
This marks the first multi-state contest of the 2022 campaign and comes in the wake of a draft opinion. That suggests the US Supreme Court may be ready to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade in 1973 that legalized abortion throughout the country. Such a decision could have a dramatic impact on the course of the midterm elections, when control of Congress, governors’ mansions and key electoral offices are at stake.
Tuesday’s primaries will also serve as illuminating evidence of Trump’s continued influence on his party more than a year after leaving office under the cloud of two impeachments and the Jan. 6 insurrection.. A victory for Vance would likely encourage Trump to continue asserting himself in the primary campaigns ahead of another potential presidential run. A setback, however, would raise questions about whether Republican voters are looking for a new direction, especially in a state he won twice by an 8-percentage-point margin.
“A lot of people want to know if Donald Trump’s endorsement means anything or not,” said Mark R. Weaver, a longtime GOP state strategist.
Vance trailed in the polls until the former president endorsed the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and Trump critic in a race that largely revolved around him. While the timing of Trump’s endorsement — less than three weeks before Election Day and with early voting already underway — may have tempered its impact, it was a huge blow to former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel, the banker Cleveland investment firm Mike Gibbons and former Ohio Republican. President Jane Timken, who had gone to great lengths to woo Trump and his voters.
Trump reminded Ohio voters Tuesday of his participation in the race.
Calling into a Columbus radio show, Trump praised Vance and defended him for once calling himself a “never Trump.” Since then, Vance has become a “very pro-Trump and America First” supporter.
State Sen. Matt Dolan, the only major candidate not to aggressively court Trump, has seen a surge of momentum in the latter stage, suggesting there may still be an appetite in the state for an alternative other than Trump.
While the race laid bare how dramatically Trump has transformed the party, with candidates running in his image and on his “America First” platform, it also exposed deep divisions. His decision to endorse Vance was met with fierce opposition. from those who backed Vance’s rivals, including the conservative Ohio Value Voters, who urged supporters to boycott a rally Trump held last month.
The race will also go down as the most expensive in state history, at more than $66 million from television and radio alone, according to Columbus-based firm Medium Buying.
Ohio, once a leading state, is now decidedly Republican, posing a challenge to Ryan, who is a heavy favorite to win his three-way Democratic primary against progressive Morgan Harper, a former consumer protection attorney, and the Columbus activist and tech executive Traci Johnson. The veteran congressman and 2020 presidential candidate has become a blue-collar crusader fighting for working families while campaigning in sweats and baseball caps.
“He is passionate about fighting for the people of Ohio,” said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters., who heads the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm. “The only person the Republican candidates seem to care about is Donald Trump and whether or not Donald Trump will endorse them.”
Driven by historical trends and Democratic President Joe Biden Deeply unpopular, Republicans are optimistic about retaking the House and Senate in November. A new president’s party almost always loses seats in subsequent midterm elections, and Republicans hope skyrocketing inflation, high energy prices and lingering frustrations over the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will further boost their votes. prospects.
Meanwhile, Democrats are hoping the GOP, with Trump’s help, will pick candidates so extreme they’ll be ineligible in November.
“With good reason, history tells us that the Democrats are going to lose control of the House,” said Dale Butland, a Democratic strategist in Ohio. “With all rights, we should also lose control of the Senate. However, the only thing that could save us is if the Republicans nominate a bunch of crazy right-wingers who are unacceptable in a general election.”
But David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati, said either way, the Ohio GOP has been fundamentally transformed, with moderates like Portman and former Ohio governor-turned-Trump critic John Kasich being gradually sidelined by candidates who have mocked separation of church and state, accused Biden of trying to “kill” Trump voters with fentanyl, and repeated lies about the 2020 election.
“Win or lose, this represents the last stand of the traditional Ohio Republican,” Niven said.
While DeWine is strongly positioned to win a second term, he is expected to face considerable conservative backlash for the aggressive COVID-19 mandates he imposed during the first year of the pandemic. DeWine’s three opponents — former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, former state Rep. Ron Hood and farmer Joe Blystone — have tapped into that anger but are likely to split the far-right vote. Still, DeWine is taking no chances and has spent millions on advertising during the final weeks of the race. Trump-backed Secretary of State Frank LaRose also sees himself as well positioned to win.
On the Democratic side, Nan Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton, is vying to become Ohio’s first woman elected governor in her race against former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. Whaley has the support of US Senator Sherrod Brown, a household name and the state’s top Democrat. Cranley is endorsed by feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
In the House, Republican Max Miller, a former Trump campaign and White House aide, is expected to make it to the GOP nomination in northeast Ohio’s sprawling new 7th district, despite allegations from his ex-girlfriend. , former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. , that he became violent with her as her relationship deteriorated. He has denied the charges.
Miller was initially recruited to challenge Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. But González chose to retire in his place.
For Democrats, a rematch pitting one of the left’s rising stars against a new House incumbent will provide another litmus test of the rustbelt influence of the progressive movement. Rep. Shontel Brown is up against progressive activist and former state senator Nina Turner, whom she defeated in a special election last year.
Colvin reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Patrick Orsagas in Columbus and Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.
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