WASHINGTON – For the second time in a week, former President Donald Trump puts the strength of his political endorsements on the line.
A Trump-backed congressional candidate in Ohio faces a crowded Republican primary on Tuesday, just seven days after another Trump-favored candidate lost a run-off election in Texas.
A victory by coal industry lobbyist Mike Carey would give Trump a chance to reclaim a large measure of influence within the Republican Party; a defeat would trigger more questions about the real value of an endorsement from the former president.
"If Trump loses this one, going forward, I can see him being more cautious about handing out endorsements," said J. Miles Coleman, an associate editor with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Trump, who before the Texas race claimed his endorsement was tantamount to victory, has implored voters in Ohio's 15th congressional district to back his candidate this time around.
Arguing that other candidates in the Ohio race were claiming his support, Trump said in a statement last week: "Please vote for Mike Carey next Tuesday, and let there be no further doubt who I have Endorsed!"
A first-time candidate, Carey is part of an 11-member Republican primary field that includes three members of the state legislature. They are all vying to replace U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican who retired from Congress to run the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
The Republican winner Tuesday will be favored in a November general election in Ohio's GOP-leaning 15th congressional district, which is near Columbus.
In Texas last week, Trump-endorsed candidate Susan Wright lost a run-off to Republican state legislator Jake Ellzey. Trump and allies brushed aside that defeat, saying Ellzey backed many Trump positions and also appealed to Democrats in the district.
Analysts said Texas undercut the perception that a Trump endorsement is decisive, emboldening Republican candidates who have been targeted by the ex-president.
Trump is planning to get involved in a series of 2022 primaries, seeking to knock off Republicans who supported impeaching him over the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The former president will have a lot of money to bolster his candidates should he choose to offer them a financial boost. Political committees affiliated with him had more than $100 million in cash on hand headed into July, according to newly filed disclosure reports. Trump backers have made more than $300,000 in recent ad buys to support Carey in the Ohio race.
Analysts said it's impossible to predict what might happen in a special election primary with an 11-candidate field. Turnout for the August race is expected to be low. Local politics will play a role, but the outcome will also have some kind of impact on Trump's national stature, especially if his candidate falls short.
"Trump will likely be a little bit more careful about who he does endorse moving forward," said Robert Alexander, a political science professor at Ohio Northern University.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump's political strength tested in Ohio GOP primary election