As the primary season gets into gear, Donald Trump’s influence over the Biden era will be tested. So far, he’s doing pretty well.
The former president predicted a “tremendous season” after a night of big primary wins in Ohio and Indiana, where all 22 candidates he endorsed won their contests. In the most significant and closely watched race, Trump pushed J.D. Vance to victory with a late endorsement in Ohio’s Senate primary.
Trump wins big in Ohio and Indiana primaries
Vance won with 32 percent of the vote in a crowded primary where most candidates had eagerly jockeyed for Trump’s approval.
While Vance’s win was the big news of the night, Trump propelled 21 other candidates to victory, including Madison Gesiotto Gilbert and Max Miller, who both won House primaries in Ohio.
Trump also swept primaries for statewide offices that have an influence on election integrity policy, a top concern for Trump, including the secretary of state and attorney general of Ohio. Six House Republican incumbents in Indiana won their primaries with Trump’s endorsement as well.
“I was 22 and 0,” Trump told Fox News. “I won every race.”
“I think we’re going to have a tremendous season, I think we’re going to win a lot of races with great candidates who are going to go on to big numbers in the fall,” he said.
It’s Trump’s party
The former president has repeatedly hinted at running for president in 2024 as he overtakes Joe Biden in numerous polls. In the meantime, Trump is exercising the role of kingmaker as he goes to war with “RINOS” who resent his hold on the Republican base.
While Vance’s remarkable victory is clear proof of that influence, Vance’s evolution from Never Trumper to MAGA culture warrior is a perhaps even stronger testament to how thoroughly Trump has transformed the GOP since 2016. Back then, Vance, an Ohio native and author of the book Hillbilly Elegy, criticized Trump as a demagogue who was taking advantage of the white-working class.
But as a Senate candidate, Vance consciously adopted the “America First” agenda and rhetoric of Trump’s nationalist movement — and Ohio voters liked what they saw. Suffice to say that there isn’t much of a constituency remaining on the right for the gentle conservatism of the pre-Trump years.
Trump carried Ohio handily in 2016 and 2020, so Vance has a strong shot of winning his Senate race against Democrat Tim Ryan.
“I think JD showed tremendous strength,” Trump told Fox. “It was a great victory for everyone, but I am most happy for the Republican Party because we have great candidates. I think all of them will be winning in the fall.”