JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Political analysts are reassessing the power of former President Donald Trump’s influence after J.D. Vance’s comeback victory in the Ohio Republican Senate Primary.
Now, with a new open Republican-leaning district in Northeast Florida, we could see the former president flex his muscles here.
Vance skyrocketed in the polls after he was endorsed by the Former President and the race for Northeast Florida’s newly drawn CD 4 has many of the same characteristics as the Ohio Senate race.
Erick Aguilar and State Representative Jason Fischer have both declared they’ll run for the new congressional district and State Senator Aaron Bean has said he’s considering a run.
UNF Political science professor Sean Freeder said that like in the Ohio senate race, the candidates aren’t well known, which means a Trump endorsement becomes all the more valuable.
“It’s in races like these perhaps, the race in Ohio, where you’re going to see this stuff matter more,” said Freeder.
But a Trump endorsement doesn’t carry equal weight in all GOP primaries.
Polling in the Georgia Governor’s race shows Trump’s pick David Perdue trailing incumbent Brian Kemp by more than 20 points.
But again, like in Ohio, Florida’s CD 4 doesn’t have an incumbent.
“When the race has no incumbent in it, voters are looking for something to cue off of and a Trump endorsement goes a long way probably anywhere, but particularly in races with no incumbent,” said Freeder.
It’s not clear who Trump would pick in the new Northeast Florida district.
Aguilar took harder right positions than Congressman John Rutherford in the 2020 Republican Primary, which Freeder opined could make him an attractive pick for Trump.
On the other hand, Fischer was invited by the former President to the signing of the Abraham Accords in Israel and cast a vote for Trump as an electoral college delegate.
“I think in this pre-endorsement phase you’re going to see a lot of candidates trying to find things that they can use to attach themselves to his name,” said Freeder.
Ultimately, it may come down to which candidate is showing the greatest potential of eking out a win in the general election.
“And Aguilar having not won in the past but having won, Fischer, on the other hand, having demonstrated that he can win elections, that he’s from the area, he might be a more bonafide general election opponent,” said Freeder.
Of course, there’s also the question of who will score an endorsement from Governor Ron DeSantis in the GOP primary.
Freeder said he anticipates the Governor will back whoever Trump picks, to avoid a potential power struggle between the two Republican figureheads.
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