Trump candidate’s Ohio success spells trouble for Republicans

Former president lends support to coal lobbyist Mike Carey who won in 10-way primary

 Former president Donald  Trump speaks with Republican congressional candidate Mike Carey at a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds  in Wellington, Ohio on Saturday. Photograph:  Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

Former president Donald Trump speaks with Republican congressional candidate Mike Carey at a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio on Saturday. Photograph: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

 

Ten days ago, questions about the strength of Donald Trump’s hold over the Republican Party were being asked. The former president had come out in support of Susan Wright, a Republican candidate, in a contest to fill a vacant House seat in Texas following the death of a congressman earlier this year from Covid-19.

“Susan has my Complete and Total Endorsement. She will never let you down! Go out and vote for Susan Wright,” he said in a statement, with his political action committee (PAC) spending a rumoured $100,000 (€85,000) in ads for the Republican hopeful.

But Ms Wright, the widow of a former congressman, lost, with voters in the North Texas district choosing state representative Jake Ellzey instead. Ellzey arrived in Washington this week and was sworn in in Congress.

The loss was a blow to Trump and suggested that his endorsement was not necessarily the vote-getter that he believed. But it was premature to write him off.

On Tuesday, a Trump-backed candidate, coal lobbyist Mike Carey, rode to victory in a 10-way primary in Ohio.

Trump’s committee had poured money into his campaign in the days running up to the primary. This time it paid off as Carey comfortably won.

“Tonight, Republicans across Ohio’s 15th congressional district sent a clear message to the nation that President Donald J Trump is, without a doubt, the leader of our party,” said Mr Carey in his victory speech. “I could not be more grateful for his support, and I am proud to deliver this win to advance his America First agenda.”

Mr Trump touted the win in media statements throughout the week, hailing the “big numbers” that voted for Carey, and criticising the media coverage of the contest. “Practically nothing is written about the big Mike Carey win,” he complained in a press release issued on Thursday.

But while Carey’s win is undoubtedly a relief for the former president, many Republican leaders are looking on nervously as they assess the possible role Trump will play in next year’s midterm elections.

With the Senate split 50-50 and Democrats holding a slim majority in the House, Republicans are hoping to win back control of both chambers – a prospect that would radically change the dynamics of the second half of Joe Biden’s presidency.

But some worry that Trump could jeopardise that chance, particularly in the Senate.

‘Hard to beat’

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, who has become increasingly estranged from the former president since the January 6th attack, is said to be encouraging former Georgia senators David Purdue or Kelly Loeffler to run for a seat in Georgia.

Both lost in special elections in January, delivering Senate control to Democrats. But they remain popular among the Republican faithful. Trump, however, has hinted that he will back Herschel Walker, a well-known former footballer.   

“I think he’d win. I think it would be very, very hard to beat Herschel,” Mr Trump said recently. But Walker has faced allegations that he violently threatened his ex-wife, and McConnell and much of the Republican establishment believe he is a poor choice for what could be one of the best hopes the party has at taking back control of the Senate.  

The continuing influence of Trump on the Republican party is one of the primary dynamics shaping the US political world. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans willing to stand up to Trump, said this week during an event hosted by the Aspen Institute, that her father, former vice-president Dick Cheney, is “deeply troubled” by the state of the Republican Party.

As Republicans’ attention begins to focus on the 2022 midterms, evaluating the role the former president will play is a key consideration.

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