The primary elections in Ohio on Tuesday stood as the first real test of former President Donald Trump’s status as the Republican Party kingmaker — and he passed.
Superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., endured a similar test in the same state… and she failed spectacularly.
For Senate, Trump endorsed JD Vance, a one-time investment banker and the author of the hit memoir “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance won the crowded Republican primary, giving Trump a strong beginning to primary season.
Vance, former State Treasurer Josh Mandel, businessman Mike Gibbons and former state GOP chair Jane Timken all vied for Trump’s endorsement, increasingly adopting language that mirrored the former president’s bombastic, populist style. In the end, Trump went with Vance, who in 2016 said the celebrity businessman could become “America’s Hitler” but has since become an avid supporter.
Vance wooed the former president by echoing his bashing of immigrants, skepticism about U.S. military involvement overseas — even in support of Ukraine — and lies about Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Lagging in the polls when he received Trump’s endorsement three weeks ago, Vance made it a centerpiece of his closing pitch and vaulted ahead of his rivals.
Vance will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan in November’s general election as they compete for the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2020, and the state has swung toward the Republicans under his influence.
Meanwhile, the Democrats endured their own messy primary.
In the Cleveland area, Democrat Rep. Shontel Brown trounced former state Sen. Nina Turner… despite Turner’s endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez.
Turner lost to Brown in last year’s special election for the seat after its previous occupant, Marcia Fudge, became Biden’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Turner ran again this year, hoping that the district might be more amenable to her approach after it was redrawn to include more Democratic areas.
Both Brown and Turner are very left-wing. Turner worked on both the presidential campaigns of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. She even co-chaired his second campaign. Meanwhile, Brown has also joined the “fiscally responsible” New Democrat Coalition, but she also remains a card-carrying member of the House Progressive Caucus.
In other words, this race is best understood not as a battle between warring factions of the party, but rather as a test of Ocasio-Cortez’s clout.
Ocasio-Cortez failed that test. Brown’s easy victory is a reminder that Ocasio-Cortez has a very uneven track record in Democratic primaries.
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She’s backed some high-profile winners — like Brad Lander, the new comptroller in New York City.
However, she also endorsed loser Maya Wiley in New York’s mayoral election last year. Wiley performed well in the district represented by Ocasio-Cortez, but she still finished the primary as a distant third. Eric Adams walked away with the Democratic nomination and the mayoralty.
Trump may have changed Republican primaries, but Ocasio-Cortez may have less clout than the media coverage would suggest.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.