Trump, emboldened after Ohio victory, faces challenges ahead

Trump, emboldened after Ohio victory, faces challenges ahead

New York: Fresh off a victory in the first real test of his power as GOP kingmaker, former President Donald Trump enters the next stretch of the mid-term campaign emboldened and facing new risks.

Trump's late-stage endorsement of JD Vance in Ohio's GOP Senate primary catapulted the Hillbilly Elegy author to victory in last week's election, reinforcing the deep ties the former president holds among the most loyal Republican voters.

Every single candidate that I endorsed won their primaries on Tuesday, Trump crowed at a Friday night rally in Pennsylvania, where he held up Vance as a trophy of his achievement.

Tuesday's primary results are just the latest proof that we have transformed the face of the Republican Party. Thank goodness."

With Trump trying to assert his dominance over the party ahead of another potential presidential run, some allies say the Ohio victory could encourage him to step up his involvement in other bitter primary fights from Arizona to Missouri, where a former governor and current US Senate candidate, Eric Greitens, is facing allegations of abuse.

But there's also caution that the coming phase of the campaign, which continues on Tuesday with a tight GOP race for governor in Nebraska, could be more complicated for Trump.

Round one to Trump, but I think it gets an awful lot harder from here, said Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor who spent time last week at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club. "I think it's going to encourage him to get even more involved and it's also got to worry him, Eberhart said, pointing to questions about what it will be like the day after Pennsylvania or the day after Georgia?

In some respects, Trump's allies acknowledge, Ohio was a uniquely favourable state for him.

Trump carried Ohio by more than eight percentage points in the 2016 and 2020 elections. The candidates running to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Rob Portman desperately courted his endorsement while trying to paint themselves to voters as the Trumpiest of the bunch.

The field was crowded, meaning that even a small bump would have been enough to make a difference. And Trump's endorsement addressed what had been Vance's biggest vulnerability in the race: his past criticism of Trump.

It clarified things, consolidated the vote and helped JD overcome a trust deficit with primary voters, said Luke Thompson, who ran Vance's super PAC. That happens because Trump's endorsement told conservative voters: You can trust this guy because I do.

Yet even in that environment, there were warning signs for Trump. More than two-thirds of Republican voters who cast ballots in the race voted for Vance's rivals. And nearly a quarter chose Matt Dolan, the only candidate who did not seek Trump's nod.

For now, however, Trump is riding high. And allies say the former president may be willing to take even greater risks now that he has notched a major victory.

That could mean an endorsement soon in Arizona's competitive Senate primary, where Republicans will choose a candidate in August to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, a top target for Republicans.

Trump was already seen as favouring Blake Masters, a young conservative, who, like Vance, has the backing of billionaire and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, but lacks Vance's celebrity appeal.

Masters is running against Attorney General Mark Brnovich and businessman Jim Lamon. Trump has repeatedly railed against Brnovich, accusing him of not fighting hard enough to overturn the will of voters in the 2020 election.

Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, said he thinks Trump took a risk in endorsing Vance.

He took somebody who was struggling in the polls but has a great personal biography and celebrity status and helped push him over the goal line.

Schlapp added: I think he's prone to take risks both in his business career and in politics and so he's going be prone to want to act.

But, Schlapp said, there's an upside and a downside to acting. If you endorse someone and they don't win, it can be perceived that your endorsement doesn't matter as much." Schlapp is supporting Lamon.

The rest of the month's calendar will be more challenging for Trump, especially in races with incumbents.

On Tuesday, Republicans will vote in Nebraska, where Trump had endorsed Charles Herbster, who was seen as a strong front-runner through much of the race but is now fighting accusations that he groped at least eight young women at public events. Nearly all of Nebraska's GOP establishment leaders have lined up behind businessman Jim Pillen.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, a race in the 2nd Congressional District between Republican Reps.

Alex Mooney and David McKinley will serve as another barometer of Trump's clout in a state he won twice by large margins. Trump endorsed Mooney the day President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law last year.

He has repeatedly condemned McKinley and 12 other House Republicans for voting with Democrats, though the bill provides USD six billion in infrastructure spending for West Virginia.

Next week, Trump's pick for an open Senate seat in North Carolina, Rep. Ted Budd, is well positioned against former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker after a rocky start. (AP)


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