After a hard-fought and nationally recognized series of Ohio GOP primary battles, incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine successfully held off populist challengers with a reported 48.1 percent of the vote, while award-winning author turned Republican Senate contender J.D. Vance has been declared the victor in the six-candidate Senate primary.
Prior to a key endorsement for former President Donald Trump, the Hillbilly Elegy author was polling in third place, but following the nod from the president, “Vance rocketed to the top of public polling after Trump’s endorsement,” wrote Steven Shephard in Politico. Vance overcame tough competition from former state treasurer Josh Mandel, who boasted endorsements from Sen. Ted Cruz and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, as well as former State Sen. Matt Dolan.
The Senate primary race has been particularly contentious between the Republican candidates, with a fight nearly breaking out between candidates at their debate in March. Of the six candidates for the nomination, four spent a great deal of time courting Trump for his endorsement, solidifying his role as kingmaker of the Republican Party. Following Vance’s victory, University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven told Reuters, “It was a big night for Trumpism in the Ohio Republican Party. Not just in Vance’s win but in a field that was dominated by candidates trying to out-Trump each other.”
Trump’s agenda continues to dominate within the ranks of the Republican Party as the majority of primary candidates sought out his endorsement. In his victory speech Tuesday, Vance told his crowd, “The political press wanted to write a story that this campaign would be the death of Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda. Ladies and gentlemen, it ain’t the death of the ‘America First’ agenda.”
Further up the ballot, the contest for governor may have highlighted potential fractures in Ohio’s Republican leadership, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeWine, who is seen as a traditional Republican, was met with three more conservative challengers following discontent with his COVID-19 response, which included mask mandates and limiting gatherings to 10 people. Despite a decisive victory, opposition against the governor may be used by the Democrats in the general election, as the Democratic National Committee has adopted a divide and conquer strategy to attack Republicans during the midterms.
DeWine is now set to face off against former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in the November election. Ohio has elected just one Democratic governor in the past 30 years, and in 2018 DeWine sailed to an easy victory against Richard Cordray, carrying 79 of Ohio’s 88 counties. This year may prove more difficult for DeWine, as it was reported he lost the support of some pro-life organizations due to his selections for health directors and allowing abortion clinics to remain open during the pandemic. Support for DeWine from conservative organizations has also continued to erode after a federal investigation revealed bribery allegations against key Ohio leaders, though DeWine has not formally been accused of any misconduct.