Trump-endorsed rich guy J.D. Vance wins massively expensive Ohio Senate primary

Trump-endorsed rich guy J.D. Vance wins massively expensive Ohio Senate primary

The Republican primary for Ohio’s open Senate seat—which weighed in at nearly $75 million—finally concluded on Tuesday with a win for Trump’s endorsed candidate, venture capitalist J.D. Vance. Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy author and one-time vociferous Trump critic, reinvented himself as a MAGA diehard and defeated former state Treasurer Josh Mandel 31-25 for the nod to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. Vance will take on Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who won his own primary 71-17 against former Treasury official Morgan Harper, in a longtime swing state that has lurched hard to the right in recent years.

Just a few months ago, Vance’s allies at Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC funded by megadonor Peter Thiel, warned that the candidate’s poll numbers were in “precipitous decline.” The group highlighted the previous fall’s assault by the Club for Growth, which supported Mandel and had run a barrage of ads using 2016 footage of Vance saying, “I’m a Never Trump guy,” an offensive that persuaded many voters that Vance could not be trusted.

Thiel’s group responded with new advertisements that rebranded Vance as a Trump loyalist, a maneuver that seems to have at least kept him in contention. Vance was also able to keep going because none of his four major rivals were able to establish a meaningful lead—either in the polls or in the contest to win Trump’s endorsement. (Only state Sen. Matt Dolan, who criticized Trump as recently as last year, didn’t seek it.) The financier also had a powerful ally in Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whom Rolling Stone reported played a key role in winning Trump over to Vance’s side.

Carlson reportedly not only made the case that Vance’s anti-Trump days were long behind him, he also argued that Mandel’s main benefactor, Club president David McIntosh, was untrustworthy because of what the story calls an “an embarrassing and ‘chronic’ personal sexual habit.” The magazine refused to provide any details about this salacious claim, but it relayed that Trump “spent a notable amount of time gossiping and laughing about the prominent Republican’s penis.” (Can’t believe you just had to read that sentence? We can’t believe we had to write it, either.)

No matter what ultimately convinced Trump, though, he went on to give his stamp of approval to Vance less than three weeks ahead of the primary. Trump excused Vance’s past disloyalty at a recent rally, saying that while his new favorite had indeed “said some bad shit about me,” each of his rivals “did also.”

The Club hoped that voters wouldn’t be so forgiving, and it even ran a commercial questioning Trump’s judgment—a shocking gambit given the GOP’s obeisance to its supreme master. Even Trump himself managed to give Vance a humiliating round of headlines just two days before Election Day when he told an audience, “We’ve endorsed—JP, right? JD Mandel, and he’s doing great.” But while Trump couldn’t remember Vance’s name, enough Republican primary voters could.

We’ll be recapping all of Tuesday’s results in Ohio and Indiana the next Morning Digest, though if you don’t want to wait that long, join us on Wednesday at Daily Kos Elections and follow along as we provide updates in our Live Digest.

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