At least in Ohio, former President Donald Trump’s still got it.
In the Republican primary for a special U.S. House election seen as a test of Trump’s continuing influence in the GOP, a virtual unknown claimed victory on Tuesday after an endorsement from the former president.
According to the Washington Examiner, Mike Carey was one of 11 Republicans seeking to replace GOP Rep. Steve Stivers, who’s leaving Congress for a job with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, in the state’s 15th Congressional District.
As The New York Times put it, Carey was a “relatively unknown energy lobbyist” running against “other Republicans who are better known in conservative circles in the district.”
What Carey had was Trump’s endorsement.
Plenty of other big names waded into the fray. Stivers had endorsed state Rep. Jeff LaRe, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — along with his political action committee — had thrown his weight behind former state Rep. Ron Hood.
The race was supposed to be a close one, particularly given the money pouring into the deep-red district south of Columbus.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Carey, a former Army National Guard officer who billed himself as a “conservative outsider” who’s never held office, won 37 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary.
People thought it would be a close race between Trump-supported Mike Carey and rest of the field…it wasn’t pic.twitter.com/qV0He844nP
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) August 4, 2021
LaRe and Hood, the other candidates with big-name endorsements, came home with 13.3 percent and 13.1 percent of the vote, respectively.
Ohio state Sen. Bob Peterson, who had a number of local endorsements and raised $556,000 as of July 14, finished fourth with 12.6 percent of the vote.
The money is another impressive aspect of Carey’s win. As Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report noted, Carey was “getting significantly outspent” as of late July.
One thing Trump's endorsement isn't doing so far in 2021: helping his chosen candidates raise money. Between Susan Wright (R) in #TX06 and Mike Carey (R) in #OH15, his candidates are getting significantly outspent.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) July 30, 2021
Carey had raised $460,000 through July 14, and a pro-Trump PAC spent more than $300,000.
In terms of PAC spending, however, hat pales in comparison to the pro-Paul Protect Freedom PAC, which spent $678,357 on Hood. Conservative Outsiders PAC also spent $200,000 attacking Carey.
Whatever, the case, Carey is likely to be the next representative of Ohio’s 15th Congressional District after the general election this November. Stivers won re-election with 63.4 percent of the vote in 2020, according to Ballotpedia, and didn’t face a serious challenge after he first won the seat in 2010. The Cook Partisan Voter Index rates it as a Republican plus-7 district.
According to The Associated Press, while Carey’s win was described as “a blow to … Stivers, a moderate Republican,” he pledged his support to Carey and said Republicans should “all work together to keep central Ohio red for decades to come.”
Trump, meanwhile, was somewhat more ebullient.
“Great Republican win for Mike Carey. Big numbers!” the former president said in a statement.
“Thank you to Ohio and all of our wonderful American patriots. Congratulations to Mike and his family. He will never let you down!”
"Great Republican win for Mike Carey. Big numbers! Thank you to Ohio and all of our wonderful American patriots. Congratulations to Mike and his family. He will never let you down!" – President Donald J. Trump pic.twitter.com/KMnPwDkrHd
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) August 4, 2021
Aside from the impressive feat of propelling Carey from an unknown to a GOP House primary victory, Trump’s pick proved reports of the former president’s demise as a political kingmaker were greatly exaggerated.
Last week, Republican Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey won the GOP primary in that state’s 6th Congressional District, located in the Dallas area. The seat had been vacated after GOP Rep. Ron Wright died of COVID-19 in February.
Trump endorsed Susan Wright, Wright’s widow. However, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — energy secretary during the Trump administration — and Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw backed Ellzey, according to the Washington Examiner.
Money may have been more of a factor in that race, however; through the end of June, Ellzey outraised Wright $1.7 million to $740,449 and managed to beat internal polling numbers to score an upset victory.
Tuesday’s results seemed to indicate, however, that the Texas race was more of an aberration than a trend.
Given the 2022 midterms — including a contentious GOP Senate primary in Ohio where candidates are vying hard for Trump’s endorsement — what happened Tuesday could have major implications going forward.