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One of the most watched Senate races in the country was in Ohio

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the most watched Senate races in the country was in Ohio. Author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance got the backing of former President Donald Trump in his primary and defeated Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan. That keeps the Senate seat - that Senate seat from Ohio - under GOP control. Joining us now, Sean Trende - he's a political reporter with RealClearPolitics. Thanks for being here, Sean.

SEAN TRENDE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So J.D. Vance - he kind of had a hard time at the beginning of his campaign, but then he pulled it off. How did that happen?

TRENDE: Well, I think what probably happened is that Ohio - you know, we think of it as the traditional swing state, but it's definitely shifted rightward in the last few cycles. I think, you know, a lot of voters who, in the end, disapproved of the job that the president was doing decided that they were going to cast their ballots for the Republican. So, you know, it's not a huge win, but it's a seven-point win. So it ended up breaking pretty heavily his way.

MARTIN: How much of a factor was Donald Trump's endorsement in that race?

TRENDE: In the primary, it was huge. You know, it was a five-way primary, and Vance won narrowly. So I think it's safe to say, without Trump's support, Vance would not be a senator - the senator-elect today.

MARTIN: Democrats had seemed pretty optimistic that Ryan was going to pull it out. What - when you look at the Democrat performance, why - where were the holes?

TRENDE: Well, it comes in the northeastern portion of the state. I mean, Vance carried Mahoning County, which is where Youngstown is. That's Ryan's home base. And it's also, you know, the traditional base of the Ohio Democratic Party, going back to the New Deal. So we're really seeing a continuation of swings in the voting patterns of working-class white voters against the Democratic Party. And in a state like Ohio, where we don't have a massive city, like Chicago or Dallas, to kind of anchor a state Democratic Party, that's really tough to overcome.

MARTIN: Can you tell me about other key races in the state?

TRENDE: Well...

MARTIN: What stood out you?

TRENDE: Yeah, the governor's race. I mean, Mike DeWine wins with 63% of the vote - a massive win over his Democratic opponent. And if you look down the ballot, the other statewide candidates were all winning with 60% of the vote as well. So the fact that Vance lagged as much as he did I think does go to some of his weaknesses as a candidate.

MARTIN: Hmm. So can we broaden this out a bit? I mean, when you look at the country as a whole - and we're getting all of these rolling results in - but it's clear at this point that there was not an overwhelming Republican victory. It's not the red wave that so many on the right had proclaimed it was going to be. Why do you think that the GOP underperformed?

TRENDE: Yeah, that's a really good question that we're going to - you know, we're going to be fighting about that for the next - well, at least until Donald Trump declares and we decide to start talking about 2024. But I think it's a case where, you know, Republicans had some real problematic candidates. I mean, even someone like Vance running 10 points behind the rest of his ticket is a testament to that. And you look at states like Pennsylvania. You look at Arizona. You look at Georgia. All of these kind of out-there GOP candidates struggled against the tide. And I think it really damaged the red wave that some people thought was coming.

MARTIN: But how many of those candidates had the support of Donald Trump?

TRENDE: A lot of them. A lot of them. I think his endorsements did not do the Republican Party any favors this time around.

MARTIN: When you look at the race in Georgia, what does that tell you about the electorate when we see the data that indicates, at least, that there was some split voting happening there - that voters seemed to have picked a Republican for the governor's race and Raphael Warnock, the Democrat, in the Senate race?

TRENDE: Well, that's another race where, you know, Brian Kemp is - there's no doubt that Brian Kemp is a conservative Republican, but he has kind of stayed within the 40-yard lines, as we used to say. Walker - Herschel Walker - you know, a famous football player, but not a lot of experience as a candidate and had a horrible series of scandals and missteps, and I think it dragged him down.

MARTIN: Sean Trende, reporter from RealClearPolitics. We appreciate your perspective this morning. Thank you so much.

TRENDE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.