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J.D. Vance owes his election to the US Senate from the Buckeye State to Donald Trump. Yes, of course, it was a majority of voters in Ohio who elected him. But the former president’s late endorsement in a crowded and competitive primary field that included 2018 GOP Senate nominee and former State Treasurer Josh Mandel was The Factor.
Vance, meanwhile, underperformed the rest of the statewide GOP ticket in Ohio. As previously reported, incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine won by 25 points over his Democratic challenger. The weakest of the three Republicans running for State Supreme Court won by 11 points. Vance won over US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) by seven points.
That’s still impressive in a state that just 10 and 14 years ago was handily won by Barack Obama and US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in 2018. Brown’s seat is up in 2024.
It would be easy to blame Trump for that. I’ve pinned much of the blame on him for his undue influence in some primaries (see: Pennsylvania) and for helping prevent the recruitment of stronger US Senate candidates in states like Arizona and New Hampshire. But it would be unfair to pin the losses entirely on him, even though survey data indicated that many voters were much less likely to support candidates seen as supporting Trump.
It is also true that Republicans won nearly 5 million more votes than Democrats for the US House (so far) in 2022. Just four years ago, Democrats outpolled Republicans by 8.6%. At least one exit poll shows that Republicans made gains across many demographics from four years ago, especially with Hispanics and women.
In many respects, as data continues to roll in, this was a classic midterm election. While all politics is local, the former President played an outsized role in many of them, often negatively.
Republicans won convincingly in states like Ohio and Florida while getting trounced in Pennsylvania, where Republican voter turnout lagged. The GOP did well in Georgia, netted four new US House seats in New York, and appears to be headed to a 221-225 seat US House majority, which curbs the Biden legislative agenda for the next two years. California Republicans appear to have figured out the “ballot harvesting” conundrum that Democrats enjoyed in previous elections and won’t lose a single incumbent in 2022. They may even pick up a seat or two in California while losing every statewide office (including, very sadly, Lanhee Chen’s campaign for State Comptroller).
But Senator-elect Vance has thoughts, and they are worth your time. This was initially published in The American Conservative. (Emphasis added)
Something odd happened on Election Day. In the morning, we were confident of my victory in Ohio and cautiously optimistic about the rest of the country. By the time the polls closed, that optimism had turned to jubilance—and lobbying.
Every consultant and personality I encountered during my campaign claimed credit for their own faction. The victory was a testament to Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), one person told me. Another argued instead that SLF had actually bungled the race, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC)—chaired by Rick Scott—deserved the credit. (Full disclosure: both the NRSC and SLF helped my race in Ohio, for which I’m grateful.)
But then the results rolled in, and it was clear the outcome was far more disappointing than hoped. And every person claiming victory on Tuesday morning knew exactly who to blame on Tuesday night: Donald J. Trump.