If an endorsement from former president Donald Trump carries extra weight in rural America, you wouldn’t know it from the Republican Senate primary in Ohio.
Author J.D. Vance, who received a late-in-the-game endorsement from Trump, won a narrow victory in the state’s Senate primary. He received about a third of the rural vote. That’s about what he garnered in large, medium, and small metropolitan areas, as well.
The only exception was in the central counties of the state’s three major metropolitan areas, where Vance lost to state Senator Matt Dolan. In those counties (which comprise the urban centers of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dayton) Vance received 29% of the vote, compared to Dolan’s 33%.
In a crowded primary contest, it’s hard to draw many broad conclusions about the geography of political opinion in Ohio. Dolan (represented by the gray bars in the graph) tended to do a bit better in large metropolitan areas and saw fading support as counties became smaller. Former state treasurer Josh Mandel (blue bars) saw his support rise slightly in smaller counties. The election represents only the preferences of Republican voters.
Trump’s endorsement of Vance, which came in the final week of the campaign, gave him a push in popularity. But rural voters were no more likely to respond to the endorsement than voters in other parts of the state.
Trump’s endorsement of the Hillbilly Elegy author was surprising, because Vance criticized Trump during the 2016 election, calling candidate Trump, among other things, “an idiot.” Vance recanted and aligned himself with Trump during the Senate primary campaign.
Trump won Ohio in 2016 and 2020 with support from small cities and rural areas, which supported Trump by margins of more than 2 to 1 in each election.
On the Democratic side of yesterday’s primary, U.S. Representative Tim Ryan won the nomination by a margin of more than 2 to 1 against two other candidates. Ryan’s support was relatively stable across metropolitan and rural areas.
- Major Metropolitan Core: The central counties of metropolitan areas of 1 million residents or more.
- Major Metropolitan Suburb: Surrounding counties of major metropolitan areas.
- Medium Metropolitan Core: The central counties of metropolitan areas of 250,000 to under 1 million residents.
- Medium Metropolitan Suburb: Surrounding counties of medium metropolitan areas.
- Small Metropolitan: All counties in a metropolitan area of under 250,000 residents.
- Nonmetropolitan (rural): Counties that are not located in a metropolitan statistical area. This article uses nonmetropolitan and rural synonymously.