Ohio’s primaries were nearly canceled on Tuesday. A heated and confusing legal battle over the redesign of congressional districts left voters waiting for a final map. And during the final hour of negotiations, election officials withdrew all state house races from the May 3 primaries, leaving them to be decided at a later date.
But all eyes remain on the state, with one big match-up topping the list: the overcrowded, heated, and expensive Republican Senate primary.
More than many contests across the country, the Ohio Senate race to replace Rob Portman, an incumbent Republican retiring, will test former President Donald J. Trump’s influence on his party, and whether Republican voters are starving. have to hard-right, anti-establishment figures in his mold – or just for those with his hallmark. The results could also give Democrats a better idea of their chances of securing the free seat in November.
Once considered a national clockmaker in the country’s industrial heartland, Ohio has overturned Republicans in the last two presidential elections, and Republicans control all levels of government. Senate candidates from both parties have aggressively courted white working-class voters who have left the Democratic Party in droves since Mr. Trump ran first on the ballot in 2016.
The campaign was at times contentious and ugly. It is also highly priced. Cash has been poured into the race — from major super PACs and from candidates’ personal coffers — making it one of the most expensive of this election cycle. Major donors include the Protect Ohio Values PAC, funded largely by billionaire Peter Thiel, who backs Mr. Vance, and the Buckeye Leadership Fund, which supports Matt Dolan, a former Ohio state senator whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team.
The Indiana primaries also featured some notable elections with implications for the direction of the Republican Party. This year, more state-level incumbents face primary challengers from the right than in at least a decade, according to a review by The Indianapolis Star, potentially resulting in an even more conservative legislative supermajority.
North of Indianapolis, in Hamilton County, Prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham’s reelection campaign against Conservative talk show host Greg Garrison is drawing undue attention: Mr. Buckingham has the backing of former Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump’s role as kingmaker
Mr. Trump shook the Ohio Senate racing landscape last month when he threw his coveted support behind JD Vance. A venture capitalist and author of the best-selling 2016 memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” Mr. Vance was heavily backed by Mr. Thiel, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and Donald Trump Jr.
During the campaign, Mr. Vance has sought to atone for his previous negative comments about Mr. Trump. Polls have shown that Mr. Vance has made significant gains, but no clear frontrunner has emerged.
A guide to the 2022 midterm elections
David McIntosh’s anti-tax Club for Growth, which had first opposed Mr Trump’s 2016 before supporting him, is fighting a battle. The GOP group backs Josh Mandel, a former Ohio state treasurer who went from unwilling Trump supporter to one of the nation’s most staunch supporters of Trumpism in 2016.
Other Republican Senate hopefuls include Jane Timken, a former Ohio Republican Party chairman who has been backed by Mr. Portman and has campaigned with former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, and Mike Gibbons, a financier who has supported all candidates in the Senate. the race. He has sometimes topped the polls with a sales pitch similar to Trump’s, reminding the public that he is not a politician but a businessman.
Still, Ohio voters may decide they don’t want a Trump-centered candidate at all. The only Republican walking in this solitary orbit is Mr. Dolan, who says he supports Mr Trump but has made him less central to the campaign. Unlike the top candidates in the race, he recognizes President Biden as the country’s legitimate leader.
Is there an ‘exhausted majority’?
On the Democratic side of the Senate race, Representative Tim Ryan is considered the frontrunner. He faces a challenge from the left by Morgan Harper, a forward-thinking attorney and senior adviser at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under former President Barack Obama.
Mr. Ryan has visited voters across the state in hopes that they have had enough of the extremism in American politics and may be willing to elect a Democrat in a seat previously held by a Republican. He tries to appeal to the “exhausted majority,” a phrase coined by researchers to describe the estimated two-thirds of voters who are less polarized and feel overlooked.
It will be interesting to see if such an electorate manifests itself in Ohio — and if it holds for Mr. Ryan or for Mr. Dolan across the aisle.
Good luck to mr. Ryan in the fall could provide lessons for Midwestern Democrats on how to counteract the appeal of Trumpism and the erosion of support for the party among the white working class — voters who were once a loyal part of the Democratic base.
The rematch between Nina Turner and Shontel Brown
Representative Shontel Brown last year defeated Nina Turner, a former state senator and top surrogate for Bernie Sanders, in a Democratic primary that was seen as a kind of proxy battle between the progressive and established wings of the party.
The two competed for a seat vacated by Marcia L. Fudge after President Biden appointed her as secretary of housing and urban development. The race attracted big Democratic names and millions of dollars, with Ms. Brown, then a Cuyahoga County councilor, who had the support of Hillary Clinton and the highest-ranking black member of the House, James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.
This year, key establishment figures have once again endorsed Ms Brown, including President Biden and Mr Clyburn. She also now has the support of the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC.
Ms. Turner was previously attacked for taking anti-Israel stances — and for using language some said echoed anti-Semitic tropes — as well as for a gross indictment of President Biden. This time, she has aggressively courted Jewish voters. She has grassroots support for Our Revolution, a progressive political action organization that emerged from Mr. Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. The group’s 150 volunteers have focused on building support for Ms. Turner through one-on-one conversations with voters.
Will Ohio Stand a Chance for a Female Governor?
Former Congressman Jim Renacci is one of several Republican candidates trying to seize their party’s internal divisions to topple GOP governors. But Mr. Renacci seems to be getting little traction with Governor Mike DeWine, a longtime Ohio politician who has worked to attract the support of Mr Trump’s most loyal supporters.
Two former mayors — John Cranley of Cincinnati and Nan Whaley of Dayton — will face each other in the Democratic primary, with Ms. Whaley looking to become the first female governor elected in the state.