The Right Resistance: Ohio GOP primary proved Donald Trump’s still got the golden touch
The leader of the charge may not be in power any longer, but the movement’s not dead.
This much was evident last week in the Ohio Republican Party primary, where former president Donald Trump endorsed candidates cleared the board on Tuesday night. While the vast majority of the establishment media’s attention remained focused on the Supreme Court and the possibility/likelihood of Roe v. Wade being tossed into the dustbin of history (along with the corpses of tens of millions of aborted babies) -- and the Democrats’ over-the-top reaction to the realization that their precious federal abortion “right” might not be around much longer -- the Buckeye State results were pushed to the side.
The biggest headline grabber was 37-year-old J.D. Vance of “Hillbilly Elegy” fame prevailing in the race to replace longtime Ohio GOP establishmentarian Rob Portman in the U.S. Senate. Vance still has to win in November’s general election, but he’ll be a heavy favorite to do so over Democrat Tim Ryan, whose main claim to fame was a short-lived 2020 presidential run and rumored challenge to Nancy Pelosi for the Speaker’s gavel last decade.
Vance had lingered in semi-obscurity until Trump opted to throw his considerable name recognition and sway with the grassroots behind the man who’s barely old enough to hold the senate office. J.D. certainly talks a good game and appears to push all the right anti-establishment buttons, but many conservatives felt more comfortable going with a more proven political commodity, second place finisher Josh Mandel, in the primary.
The Yale Law educated “Hillbilly” author has a lot to live up to when and if he goes to Washington. All eyes will be watching to see whether the one-time Never Trumper really changed his views or if he’s merely an opportunist who looks the part (full beard and Appalachian pedigree) but suddenly and unexpectedly morphs into a DC swamp creature.
Trump had a great night overall, with all of his endorsements coming through with victories, including those in the Indiana primary next door. For those establishment media sources who’d crowed about Trump being finished and the muscle of his name doesn’t mean as much any longer, they should take a good look at Ohio, which revealed just the opposite.
Trump’s power as a kingmaker is still well-regarded, but, despite the proven success, some dedicated Republicans are still wary of anointing him the party standard-bearer going into 2024. Self-described libertarian writer Kristin Tate penned at The Hill:
“If Republicans choose Donald Trump as their presidential nominee in 2024, Democrats will win. If they nominate almost any other prominent conservative, Democrats will lose — and they will lose big. A 2024 White House bid by Trump would ensure the focus of the election is on re-litigating 2020 and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach, rather than on the issues important to voters right now. Democrats realize this may be their only path to victory, after years of unified control in Washington has left many American families worse off than they were before...
“Trump is the Democrats’ Hail Mary. In addition to reviving CNN’s ratings, Trump’s mere entrance into the race would shift focus away from Biden’s abysmal track record. Instead of covering inflation or the open border, media coverage would be blanketed with daily comments by Trump about how the 2020 election was rigged, defensive statements about the Jan. 6 riots, and attacks on fellow Republicans. If you think that Trump will stop with Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), wait until he realizes that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem may threaten his chances for a second term...
“Donald Trump can be a central figure for the Republican Party and the nation. He could have the role of an elder statesman — if his ego can get out of the way.”
In essence, Tate presents a very-well written and argued case against a Donald Trump 2.0 candidacy. This call for new Republican blood at the top isn’t exactly new, but the “anyone but Trump in the GOP” appeals are becoming more frequent as time goes on. It doesn’t necessarily signal that conservatives and Republicans are tired of Trump, but demonstrates that folks are one, more-than-fed-up with Biden, and two, extremely nervous that Trump would screw things up like he did in the latter part of the 2020 campaign.
I’m speaking of Trump’s disastrous handling of the first presidential debate with senile Joe Biden, which took place on September 29 in Cleveland Ohio. Recall that this forum was just a few days before news broke that Trump had tested positive for COVID, all-but enabling the already rabid scaremongers to assert that the president was too careless with the virus and should and would pay the price.
Trump’s diagnosis sent a terrible message to Americans who were taking advantage of the relaxed early voting permissions in practically every state. If you waited until seeing the two candidates face-to-face on stage before casting your ballot, and saw an obviously agitated Trump -- who couldn’t stop interrupting Biden while the Democrat babbled nonsensically -- and who wasn’t quite himself, it made it easy for fence-sitters to opt for a change.
I remember watching the program in the comfort of my living room and shouting at the screen -- “Let him talk! You have the issues on your side! Be presidential! Don’t give the critics ammunition to attack you as hotheaded and out-of-control! Let him hang himself! Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake!” Okay, maybe not the last one (which Napoleon reportedly said). But I didn’t have a good feeling after the closing remarks, put it that way.
Trump’s performance in the second debate three and a half weeks later on October 22 was as good as his first showing was bad, but it was likely too late at that point. Too many votes had already been mailed in. Of course there are the lingering allegations and evidence of vote fraud, but for now, we’ll assume that Trump contributed to his own demise.
But is Tate correct by swearing that nominating Trump is the Democrats’ only chance to retain the presidency in two years?
There are a few things going for Trump. First, it’s clear by the results in Ohio and Indiana that the 2016 election winner is still incredibly popular with “average” folks and those who feel left out of the political process -- and that his endorsement still offers real value to candidates who seek to go to Washington to help pass the Make America Great Again agenda.
Not every Trump endorsed candidate is a guaranteed winner, but his set of America First principles and ideas certainly are. Vance put America First trade policies and staunching the flow of illegal immigration as the mainstays of his campaign. Other candidates across the country are doing likewise, and conservative voters are responding to them.
Similar to the Trump brand in business, the Trump name in policy engenders a collection of feelings that stirs people. Average voters who don’t follow politics as closely as the pundit class does don’t have the time nor interest to individually research each candidate. One might play at a Trump golf club or stay at a Trump hotel because they know what they’re getting once they walk through the door. It’ll be expensive, but it’ll be high class.
A Trump endorsed candidate would need to be a loyalist to the Trump political brand, and he doesn’t just hand out his backing to anyone. Trump’s endorsements haven’t always worked out -- he’s had a number of spectacular failures -- but one can gather that the person he attaches his name to won’t be a suck-up to the establishment. Mitch McConnell’s disciples need not apply.
Next, Trump can tone down the 2020 talk after this year’s midterms, and some might even give him credit for “growth.” I’ve personally speculated that Trump has maintained his “2020 was stolen” narrative to keep elections integrity at the forefront of the public’s mind. If he were to bury the subject, for example, do you think wavering states would’ve gone ahead on their own and done audits or investigations of what happened after November 3, 2020?
Not a chance. They would’ve ignored the travesty as an anomaly and returned to business-as-usual.
The fact is, Trump would be smart to deemphasize the past and focus solely on Biden and the Democrats after this year’s federal midterm elections. What would be the use of trying to make what happened over two years ago a major part of your “elect me now” argument? Voters care, but not that much. They want to hear about how bad Biden has made the country and how Trump will Make America Great Again -- again.
Lastly, I’ll be the first to concede that Gov. Ron DeSantis is looking like a very attractive presidential candidate these days, one who might even be more appealing to principled conservatives than Trump. But for Tate -- and others -- to flat-out declare that the Democrats would win in 2024 if Trump is the Republican candidate is premature and likely incorrect.
Hypothetically speaking, a Trump 2.0 run could increase the Democrats’ chances, but liberals don’t offer much of an alternative to Trump’s controversial but effective leadership. How much do people really care about personality these days after living through the ruling regime’s ineptitude? After all, Biden is still regarded as a nice guy, but his approval rating is underwater by double digits.
Regardless of how you feel about Donald Trump, it’s undeniable that his name -- and endorsement -- still carries great weight. Put another way, what candidate running in this year’s Republican primaries wouldn’t want or would reject Trump’s backing? 2024 will take care of itself, in good time. For now, Trump is still an effective kingmaker.
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