Talking Points

Trump's little win in Ohio

The story of former President Donald Trump's influence took another turn last night. In an Ohio primary, Trump-endorsed Mike Carey secured the Republican nomination in the 15th congressional district.

The outcome will reassure Trump supporters. The former president's authority took a hit last week, when Trump's favored candidate lost a special election in Texas. The result was touted as a sign of Trump's waning influence. Carey's victory suggests Trump's brand still matters.

Yet Carey's success doesn't send a clear message either. First, the primary attracted extremely low turnout. Carey's victory last night represents just 18,655 votes out of about 44,000 cast. 

Second, that total was split among 11 candidates, two of whom were supported by Trump's own allies. Like Trump in 2016, Carey beat a divided field. He might have been less successful if he had faced consolidated opposition, as in the two-candidate Texas runoff.

Finally, the districts are different. The Texas 6th has been trending blue in presidential elections. The Ohio 5th is going the other way. That may have something to do with their ethnic composition. Although the two districts have comparable median incomes and rates of college graduation, the Texas district is under 70 percent white, compared to over 90 percent in Ohio. 

Last night's results won't settle any arguments, then. Instead, they reflect tensions in a still unsettled party. Trump's legacy is part of the Republican future. But how much is still anyone's guess.