Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance speaks to his supporters during an election night watch party on May 3, 2022, in Cincinnati.
The 2022 primary season kicked off in earnest on Tuesday, with voters in Ohio and Indiana going to the polls to choose nominees for Senate, governor and a myriad of House races.
I went through the results and picked out some of the winners and losers of the night that was. They’re below.
* Donald Trump: There’s no debate that the former President’s endorsement of author J.D. Vance in the Ohio GOP Senate primary was the big moment in the race. Vance went from middle of the pack to the top of the field in the wake of the endorsement and, in his victory speech, went out of his way to thank Trump for his support. Unlike many of his endorsements of incumbents with no serious chance of losing, Trump’s decision to wade into the race on behalf of Vance was a genuine political risk, as it was regarded by many national observers — yours truly included — as an early test of the former President’s continued sway within the party. Test passed. Plus, J.R. Majewski, who drew press for painting a massive picture of Trump on his lawn, is leading the Republican primary for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District as well.
* Peter Thiel: Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and a tech billionaire, dumped $15 million into the Ohio Senate race to help elect Vance. That bodes well for Thiel’s other major priority this year: the Arizona Senate race, where he has given millions to a super PAC supporting Blake Masters, a former Thiel aide.
* Mike DeWine: The Ohio Republican was one of the most aggressive governors in the country in working to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic. Because we live in very strange political times, that made him a target of Trumpist conservatives. But on Tuesday, DeWine won renomination rather easily, likely the result of two decidedly Trump-y candidates splitting the votes of the former President’s base in the state. (Unlike in the state’s US Senate race, Trump didn’t take sides in the gubernatorial primary.)
* Greg Pence: You could be forgiven for thinking that the older brother of the former vice president might be in a bit of trouble in a Republican primary in 2022. After all, Trump has made very clear his disdain for Mike Pence’s unwillingness to overturn the 2020 Electoral College results. But Trump is nothing if not unpredictable and endorsed the Indiana congressman late last week, saying that Greg Pence is “Strong on the Border, Protects Life, Defends the Second Amendment, and Supports our brave Military and Vets.” Pence won his primary easily.
* Tim Ryan: The Ohio congressman cruised to the Democratic Senate nomination, saving all of his money and attacks for the general election. While Vance’s celebrity may make him a bit of an asymmetric challenge in the general election, he has also has a long record of columns and public statements that should be fodder for Ryan’s opposition research team. Plus, Vance’s flip-floppery on Trump — he was vocally opposed to him in 2016 and has now turned into an ardent supporter — should make for some slam-dunk ads for the Democrat’s campaign.
* Josh Mandel: The former Ohio treasurer started the race as a clear favorite for the Republican nomination. He ended it in a distant second to Vance. It marks Mandel’s second loss for Senate in the last decade. Mandel is still in his mid-40s and has plenty of time to find another race — or races — to run, but his rising star status within the party is now officially gone.
* Self-funders: The Ohio Republican Senate field was filled with candidates spending heavily from their own wealth — and not performing terribly well. Mike Gibbons dropped almost $17 million of his own money to win just 12% of the vote. Jane Timken spent $3.5 milion of her own cash to get 6% of the vote. And Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, contributed $10.5 million to his campaign to finish third behind Vance and Mandel.
* Rob Portman: The retiring Ohio Republican senator backed Timken in the race to replace him in a clear attempt to head off the Trumpification of the GOP in the state. She wasn’t even close to winning. And hours after the primary was over, Portman quickly threw his support to Vance. “I believe we need a #GOP majority in the U.S. Senate as a check & balance on the Biden admin, & Ohio will be key to that effort,” he tweeted.