While Vance received only about a third of all the votes cast in the Republican Senate primary — suggesting there are limits to Trump’s influence — in a tight race, with five well-funded candidates, it’s tough to argue Trump’s endorsement didn’t, in the end, make all the difference for Vance. This is made even more impressive by the fact that Trump had to essentially help Vance overcome the venture-capitalist-turned-author’s own words, which were sharply critical of Trump back in 2016. Vance’s win, however, also helps us to understand why Trump’s endorsements carry so much weight with Republican voters.
Of the seven candidates running for the nomination to replace retiring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, five were considered serious contenders. This group included Vance, investment banker Mike Gibbons, former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken, former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians (formerly Cleveland Indians) baseball team.
Normally, when you have this many serious candidates, the field naturally narrows over time. Some candidates run out of money, as donors allocate their spending towards who they see as the most likely victor. Gibbons, Timken and Dolan, however, had enough personal wealth to loan millions to their own campaigns, while Mandel had solid financial backing from the Washington, DC-based Club for Growth.
Republican voters were left with a large number of candidates to sort through, made more difficult by the fact that most of the candidates took similar political stances. Only Dolan was willing to break with Trump (despite trying to bill himself as a Trump supporter), particularly over whether the 2020 election was stolen, while the others promoted nearly identical agendas on issues such as abortion and guns. This is where Trump came in.
Endorsements have always played an important role in US politics. Candidates still actively seek the endorsement from local party organizations. In the past, however, the most sought-after endorsements were from newspaper editorial boards. For voters, especially those who didn’t follow politics closely, the endorsement of a trusted newspaper, whose editors presumably did pay careful attention to candidates and issues, carried quite a bit of weight.
Although newspapers still endorse candidates, especially for Republican voters, they seem to no longer be a trusted source. Many of these voters do, however, trust Donald Trump. This is why his endorsements are so important. Trump’s voters believe the former President understands their interests and are confident he will only support a candidate who shares those interests.
The fact that Trump was willing to endorse Vance even though, in Trumps words, “He’s a guy who said some bad sh*t about me,” meant that Vance was the real deal. It effectively neutralized the attack ads against Vance which showed clips of him bashing Trump.
One way to see the sway Trump has over many Republican voters is to compare what happened in the Senate primary to the results in another statewide race in which Trump failed to endorse a candidate.
While Republican voters in Ohio were selecting their candidate for the US Senate, they were also selecting their candidate for governor. Incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine was deeply unpopular with some Republicans because of his support for mask mandates during the pandemic. DeWine also does not share Trump’s concraerns about the 2020 election, and this prompted Trump, before he was suspended from Twitter, to tweet out, “Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!”
Several Republicans did challenge DeWine for the nomination, including former Congressman Jim Renacci and political novice Joe Blystone. In the end, DeWine fell short of the 50% mark but still managed to win the nomination easily. Without Trump’s guidance, his supporters seemed to split their vote between Renacci and Blystone. Would the results have been different if Trump had endorsed Renacci, who was arguably an obviously stronger candidate? It’s hard to believe the results would not have been much closer.
As the 2022 primary season heats up, we will have plenty of opportunities to gauge the effect of Trump’s endorsements. The next big test will be in Pennsylvania, where another large slate of GOP candidates is vying for the nomination to fill a vacant Senate seat. For now, however, it appears, for Republican candidates, a Trump endorsement is worth its weight in political gold.
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: The Bloggers Briefing