Trump's GOP clout on the line next week in Ohio primary showdown

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A new TV ad running in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District spotlights that “Mike Carey stood with President Trump when he took on the political establishment.”

The spot, by the former president’s Make America Great Again Action super PAC emphasizes that “now President Trump is standing with him.”

Carey, a longtime energy lobbyist and the chair of the Ohio Coal Association, is one of 11 Republican candidates running in next Tuesday’s GOP primary in a district that includes parts of southern Columbus and its suburbs, as well small cities, towns, and rural areas in parts of central and southern Ohio.

And Carey is the only candidate backed by Trump in the race for a seat left vacant after longtime Republican Rep. Steve Stivers stepped down to become president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

After a setback on Tuesday in Texas when Susan Wright, the Trump backed candidate in an all-Republican House special election runoff in the state’s 6th Congressional District, was defeated, the primary in Ohio – and the former President’s endorsement of Carey – is grabbing more national attention.

A senior Trump political adviser told Fox News on Thursday that “there’s a heavy emphasis on delivering a win” in the Ohio primary. 

Asked if the former president will step up his efforts in the closing days of the campaign, the adviser – who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely – said “I expect him to do whatever it takes to win.”

Trump took aim at Carey’s rivals, saying in a statement on Tuesday that “numerous candidates in the great State of Ohio, running in Congressional District 15, are saying that I am supporting them, when in actuality, I don’t know them, and don’t even know who they are.”

“Mike Carey is the only one who has my endorsement and he’s the one I feel will do the best job for Ohio, and for the United States. Please vote for Mike Carey next Tuesday, and let there be no further doubt who I have Endorsed!,” Trump emphasized.

Trump remains extremely popular and influential with Republican voters six months removed from the White House, as he continues to play a kingmaker role in GOP primary politics and flirts with a 2024 presidential run.

But with Wright and GOP rival Jake Ellzey both conservatives and both strong supporters of Trump’s “America First” agenda, the election runoff in Texas to a degree turned into a referendum on the former president. And the victory by Ellzey, a Navy combat pilot veteran, in the extremely low turnout contest triggered plenty of stories questioning whether the results were a sign that Trump’s grip over the GOP was waning.

While Trump recorded a robo-call, headlined a tele-rally and Make America Great Again Action went up with ads in the final week before this week’s election, Ellzey greatly outraised and out spent Wright and out hustled her on the campaign trail.

And while Wright spotlighted the endorsements from Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ellzey enjoyed the backing of a number of high-profile Lone Star State Republicans – including former longtime Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a fellow combat veteran, and former Rep. Joe Barton, who represented the district for nearly three decades before not seeking reelection in 2018.

Endorsements from other leading Republicans may also be a factor in the Ohio contest. 

Stivers is backing state Rep. Jeff LaRae in the GOP primary. And Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Trump ally and former Republican presidential candidate, is supporting former state Rep. Ron Hood.

The pro-Paul Protect Freedom PAC is spending nearly half a million dollars to run TV, digital, and radio commercials on behalf of Hood in the month leading up to Tuesday’s primary, according to figures from AdImpact, a leading ad tracking firm. According to AdImpact, Make America Great Again Action is shelling out just over $300,000 to run its commercial in the campaign’s closing week.

A source close to Sen. Paul’s political team confirmed to Fox News a report from Politico that the ad blitz wasn’t sitting well with members of Trump world, some of whom unsuccessfully urged that the spots be taken down.

While some pundits saw the Texas results as a rebuke of the former president, longtime Republican consultant Mike Biundo, a veteran of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, urged caution.

“We tend to overreact in any direction after the results like this. Candidates and campaigns matter. What is happening on the ground in a race matters. To claim Trump’s popularity and/or his hold is slipping based on last night’s results would be a miscalculation on the part of the pundits and operatives pushing such a narrative,” Biundo told Fox News on Wednesday.

But a second straight defeat of a Trump endorsed candidate – if it were to happen next week – would bring a tidal wave of stories questioning the former president’s sway over the GOP – especially in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District – which Trump carried by 15 points his 2016 presidential election victory and by 14 points in last November’s reelection defeat. 

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