Midterm Memo: Financier Peter Thiel and pollster Tony Fabrizio boosted by Vance win
There were two other big winners in the Republican Party after J.D. Vance captured the Republican nomination for Senate in Ohio, and neither of them is named Donald Trump.
Yes, Vance’s victory Tuesday evening was a big win for the former president, whose endorsement proved crucial for the former venture capitalist and bestselling author. But the outcome of the open GOP Senate primary in the Buckeye State marked a moment to celebrate for two other Republicans rather prominent in the party of late: Megadonor Peter Thiel and veteran pollster Tony Fabrizio.
Thiel, the venture capitalist who is on an apparent mission to elevate conservative populists, invested at least $10 million in a super PAC that supported Vance (his former employee) in the primary. And it paid off — handsomely. Republicans are dominating Ohio politics, and the midterm election cycle is shaping up as a nationwide GOP wave, making Vance the favorite in November against Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic Senate nominee. That means Thiel is on track to see a major political ally, who happens to be a rising Republican star, take his place on Capitol Hill (and in every Sunday show studio) come January of next year.
Meanwhile, another former Thiel employee on whom the financier has staked another $10 million, Blake Masters, is running competitively in the open primary to pick a GOP Senate nominee in Arizona.
TRUMP AND ALLY PETE RICKETTS ON OPPOSITE SIDES IN NEBRASKA GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY
Fabrizio also has to be smiling after Vance advanced — and not simply because he polled for Vance’s campaign, or because his business partner David Lee does the survey work for the nominee’s Thiel-funded super PAC, Protect Ohio Values, or because his firm now appears to be guaranteed another six months of robust billings.
Fabrizio has been around a long time. Neither his reputation, nor his firm, was likely to rise or fall because of the success or failure of one client in one primary contest in one election cycle. But the on-again, off-again Trump pollster and his business partner Lee absorbed jabs from competitors after a March 30–31 survey their firm conducted for Protect Ohio Values revealed Vance to be in a surprising three-way tie for first at a time when most of the other available data showed the eventual winner stagnating in the middle of a crowded pack of candidates.
Indeed, in an unusual move, campaign operatives for two of Vance’s competitors, businessman Mike Gibbons and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, both bitter rivals, collaborated with each other in an attempt to make the case that Lee purposely manipulated that poll. Why, supposedly? According to the Gibbons and Mandel campaigns, Lee was being overly optimistic with his turnout models to convince Trump that Vance was viable so that the former president would feel comfortable bestowing the endorsement they so coveted (for obvious reasons.)
Well … #oops. Now, to the field.
- Nevada Senate race. Former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt enjoys roughly double the support of Republican primary opponent Sam Brown in a new poll for the Hill conducted by Emerson College. Perhaps more importantly, Laxalt topped 50% in this survey, compared to Brown’s 27%. Another victory lap on tap for Trump? Yes, as the former president has endorsed Laxalt. But if these poll numbers end up predictive, it will also be a win for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is also backing Laxalt. Next up for the former state attorney general would be Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
Note: Despite the favorable political environment, Republicans in Nevada are not yet ready to predict a Laxalt victory in November. The former Nevada attorney general did not crack 50% of the vote in his lone statewide victory in 2014, a GOP wave year, and was ousted after just one term.
- Ohio’s 11th Congressional District. While all eyes were focused on Vance’s win in Ohio’s Republican Senate primary, Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH), the pragmatic incumbent in the state’s Democratic-leaning 11th District, soundly defeated liberal challenger Nina Turner. Turner is a fiery populist who would, in style and substance, appear to channel the party’s liberal wing — the wing most likely to show up to vote in Democratic primaries. And she enjoyed the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a socialist who caucuses with the Democrats and a two-time presidential candidate. But it simply wasn’t enough — not nearly. Don’t fret, however. Turner promised in her defiant concession speech that voters haven’t seen the last of her. “Sister Turner ain’t going nowhere,” she said. “Just like King James, LeBron James, decided to take his skills to South Beach, what Sister Turner is gonna do is continue taking my skills all over this nation. And I’m gonna see some folks in 2024.”
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- 2024 Watch. Mike Pompeo might not have the largest political operation among the Republican Party’s presumed 2024 contenders, nor the flashiest, nor the one with the deepest pockets, etc. But after receiving a fundraising email from CAVPAC, the former secretary of state’s political action committee, I was reminded that he has quietly become a ubiquitous presence on the 2024 shadow campaign trail, traveling steadily across the country to support endorsed candidates and contribute to GOP efforts to win control of Congress in the midterm elections. The tone and tenor of the CAVPAC fundraising request was tame by comparison to the rhetoric typically employed to encourage online donations. Other than calling President Joe Biden “radical” and asking for help to “retire” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Pompeo sounded practically civil. Still, it was a good reminder that one of Trump’s most trusted confidants, at least during his term in office, is plotting a presidential campaign of his own — and that he has not ruled out running against his old boss.