When a jubilant JD Vance claimed victory as the newly elected U.S. Senator for Ohio, he told a relieved Republican party he was “overwhelmed with gratitude.”
The bestselling author of Hillbilly Elegy, a tale of growing up amid drug addiction and poverty, thanked his family, campaign team and fellow Republican candidates in the Midwestern state. But all that gratitude didn’t extend to a mention of who Vance arguably owes the most, donald trump.
It was the former president’s endorsement that pulled Vance from the back of the Republican primary field earlier this year and handed him the nomination. But after that, Trump’s attempt to maintain his grip on the Republican Party by playing kingmaker was of dubious value, as many of his other front-runners discovered when the midterm election results came in. arrived.
At least Vance won, though the evidence is that Trump embarrassed him among the wider electorate as the venture capitalist got a smaller share of the vote than most. Republicans running for an Ohio statewide office.
Other, more outlandish Trump-backed candidates went down in flames in what would otherwise have been seen as winnable seats on a night when Republicans, far from riding the much-promised “red wave,” were instead calmed down and wondering. if they could hang on to what they already have.
In Pennsylvania, one of the most closely watched Senate races pitted Trump-backed celebrity Mehmet Oz, known on TV as Dr. Oz, against John Fetterman, a Democrat who had to overcome voter skepticism about to his ability to serve after suffering a stroke.
Fetterman snatched the crucial seat Republicans, as exit polls showed some voters thought Oz was the one unfit for the job. They also said it was damaged because it was from New Jersey.
In Arizona’s race for the Senate, a state Trump narrowly lost in 2020, the former president backed Blake Masters, a venture capitalist and protege of right-wing billionaire businessman Peter Thiel. Masters won favor with Trump by claiming the 2020 election was stolen and he would have refused to certify the result had he been a senator.
With two-thirds of the votes counted, Masters trailed Democratic incumbent, former astronaut Mark Kelly.
In other races, Trump’s endorsement did not produce the decisive victory that Republican candidates were hoping for. In Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson won a narrow victory in a state where elections are often narrowly decided, suggesting Trump was not much help.
Similarly, Trump’s Georgia nominee Herschel Walker was heading for a runoff next month against incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock as Republicans had hoped for a clear victory with the former president’s backing.
In Nevada, fiery pro-Trump Republican candidate Adam Laxalt was in a tight race with incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.
The contests for the House of Representatives also caused some disappointment for the Trump camp. In Colorado, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, described as the “Trumpiest of the Trumpists”, struggled to keep his seat as the final votes were counted on Wednesday.
Still, the new Congress will still have dozens of members who continue to deny that Trump lost the 2020 presidential election among more than 200 Republicans elected to offices across the country who continue to question Biden’s victory because most were re-elected. Among them was a congressman from Arizona, Andy Biggs, who refuse that he apologized to Trump for his role in the seizure of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Hans Hassell, an associate professor of political science at Florida State University who has investigated the impact of Trump’s endorsements on elections, said the limits of the former president’s support should come as no surprise. His research on Trump’s midterm endorsement in 2018 showed he was just as likely to mobilize opposition as support.
“In these particular races, we found that when Trump endorsed a candidate, it was a boost in terms of fundraising ability, but it also mobilized the opposition dramatically. Opponents of Trump’s sponsors have actually got more money than the Trump-endorsed candidate. In the end, the candidates Trump endorsed did worse than the candidates who weren’t endorsed by Trump,” he said.
“Trump mentions are not random. They are strategic. He tries to support candidates who will reinforce his perceptions of influence. But overall, a Trump endorsement was negative in 2018 in terms of vote share and likely lost 15 to 20 seats to Republicans following those races where he endorsed.
This year, part of the Trump camp’s strategy for his planned presidential race in 2024 has been to place supporters in key positions, especially in swing states, which have influence over the conduct of the vote and the count. But it also failed because Trump’s endorsement appears to have hurt Republican chances in several state gubernatorial races by pushing weak candidates to the fore.
In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, a retired Army colonel who enthusiastically promoted Trump’s false claims of election rigging, was badly beaten, as were other candidates refusing gubernatorial elections in Pennsylvania. Wisconsin, Maryland and Massachusetts.
In Arizona, Kari Lake, a Trump favorite who said she would be the “worst nightmareif she was elected, her Democratic opponent was close behind to replace the incumbent Republican governor.
Likewise, Trump’s people have lost in contests for the post of secretary of state in several places where it would have allowed them to monitor the 2024 presidential vote.
Mark Finchem, a member of the Oath Keepers militia, was late to Arizona, as was Trump’s nominee for state attorney general, who also has influence in the election.
In Michigan, Kristina Karamowho claimed to have witnessed ballot tampering during the count in Detroit in 2020 and was part of an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn the election, lost his bid to become secretary of state.