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Trump's endorsement power was evident in Ohio and Indiana — though there are limits

Ohio Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance arrives onstage in Cincinnati after winning the primary Tuesday night. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Ohio Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance arrives onstage in Cincinnati after winning the primary Tuesday night. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republican candidates backed by former President Donald Trump had a good night in Ohio and Indiana primaries Tuesday night.

Many of these candidates are younger and likely to make it to Congress — and if more of them win elsewhere this year, this cycle could represent something of a bridge to Trumpism, even post-Trump. They are examples of the potentially lasting effects of how Trump has changed GOP politics — although there are limits to his influence.

Pro-Trump candidates continued to do best in rural areas, underscoring where his power is concentrated, but there remains a question of how well Trumpism can do in swing areas.

In the more short term — and something worth tracking — there was an indication that Republican enthusiasm is up, while Democrats' is down. That's evident in how much GOP turnout rose, compared with the 2018 primaries.

That's one early warning sign for President Biden and his party in the president's first midterm, when parties out of power historically do well. Biden's stature within the party, though, got a small boost when an Ohio candidate he endorsed won in a landslide over a progressive firebrand who lost only narrowly last year.

The headliner of the night was J.D. Vance

Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy author, won a crowded Ohio Republican Senate primary in the race to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman.

Vance, who got a boost after Trump endorsed him, defeated former state Treasurer Josh Mandel by about 8 points. Vance had been much further down in the polls before Trump's endorsement, and he knew exactly who to thank Tuesday night.

"Thanks to the president for everything, for endorsing me," said Vance, 37, who in 2016 called himself a "Never Trump guy" and said he "never liked him."

He's changed his tune.

"A lot of fake news media out there," Vance said, continuing, "wanted to write the story that this campaign would be the death of Donald Trump's 'America First' agenda. Ladies and gentlemen, it ain't the death of the 'America First' agenda."

Trump also feuded with — and defeated — a powerful pro-GOP outside group, the Club for Growth, in this race. The club, which has often aligned with the former president, continued to support Mandel after Trump endorsed Vance. That drew Trump's ire and, at one point, Trump reportedly sent the head of the group a text cursing him out.

Vance will face off against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan

Ryan easily won the Democratic nomination. Vance, who accused Ryan Tuesday night of running as a "Trump Democrat," starts as the favorite in a state that has trended more Republican.

Democrats hope Ryan can make inroads with a working class-focused message, but the politics of this state are clear — so much so that when Ryan was asked if he wants Biden to campaign with him, he said he's running his own race.