Ohio Senate primary remains all about Trump as candidates hope for late endorsement

All that is missing is Trump himself.

“There are people on stage who are literally fighting for a vote, and that person doesn’t even vote in Ohio,” said state Sen. Matt Dolan, the only one of seven GOP candidates who hasn’t bought into Trump’s lies about widespread voting. fraud in the 2020 election, he said in a recent Wilberforce debate.
The jockeying for a belated, groundbreaking endorsement from Trump comes in part because polls show the primary is open less than four weeks before the May 3 primary, with early voting beginning this week. Appeals to voters who remain loyal to the former president are featured in candidates’ debates and television ads.
Venture capitalist and author JD Vance has aligned himself with far-right figures who have emerged after Trump. He defended Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently spoke at a meeting of white nationalists and told Wilberforce that she listened to her speech and “agreed with almost every word she said.”

“She didn’t say anything mean, and I absolutely will not throw her under the bus, or anyone else who is a friend of mine,” Vance said.

Former Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken has frequently equated Trump handpicking her for that party seat with effective endorsement for this race. She has hired two of Trump’s top political allies, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

Self-funded financier Mike Gibbons and former state treasurer Josh Mandel also aggressively courted Trump. Gibbons has cast himself as a candidate in the Trump mold: a former businessman with no real political background and with experience making money in systems he would now like to reform.

Mandel has focused on Gibbons’ business experience, accusing him in a debate in Cleveland last month of “making millions” from shares in a Chinese company.

“You have never been in the private sector in your entire life. You don’t know anything,” Gibbons said.

“Two tours in Iraq,” replied Mandel, who served in the Marine Corps Reserve, as he stood up and walked over to Gibbons and the two stood face to face. “Don’t tell me I haven’t worked.”

Everything is unfolding without Trump publicly weighing in on the race. The former president has waded into other competitive Senate primaries, including soon in neighboring Pennsylvania, where he told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he will make an endorsement in “about a week.”

Mandel and Gibbons led the pack in most polls. But Timken and Vance also have some support, and all four have flooded the airwaves with publicity.

Meanwhile, Dolan is trying to tap into concerns among some Republicans that the race to appease Trump and woo his most ardent supporters in the primary could ultimately hurt the GOP’s chances of retaining the seat in November.

a changing state

In recent elections, Ohio appears to have lost its former status as a benchmark, as Republican dominance among white working-class and rural voters has put the Midwestern state out of reach of most Democrats in statewide elections. .

Some, however, continue to be successful there. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown won re-election in 2018, posting a 7-point victory as Republicans swept all executive races statewide. And Democrats have also won a handful of court battles across the state.

The likely Democratic nominee in this year’s Senate race, longtime U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who challenged Nancy Pelosi for the House Speaker’s gavel in 2016 and briefly ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, it offers itself as an “all economy all the time”. time” candidate in the mold of Brown. He has avoided culture wars on the campaign trail and instead launched populist missives against China and international trade deals.

Still, for a Democrat to win in Ohio, a large section of independents and Republicans would have to find the Republican candidate unacceptable.

Why Democrats are desperate to prove Ohio isn't a lost cause
That prospect is the bane of national Republicans, who are watching as similar potential scenarios loom over the Senate playing field, including in reliably red Missouri, where a leading candidate is accused of assault by his ex-wife. ; in Georgia, where a Trump-backed former football star has faced accusations of threatening multiple women, including his ex-wife; and in Pennsylvania, where the nation’s most expensive Senate primary election could leave the eventual winner bloodied.

With control of a Senate now split 50-50 on the line, losses in any combination of those states could jeopardize Republican hopes for what should otherwise be a good midterm for the party in question. the current political environment.

In Ohio, Democratic strategists say privately that the Republican who would be the hardest to beat in November is the one they are most certain GOP primary voters won’t nominate: Dolan. Democrats see the state senator, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, in the mold of Portman, who has held the seat since 2011. Unlike his rivals, including Mandel, who say the 2020 election went to him stolen from Trump, Dolan has acknowledged reality. of Joe Biden’s victory.

“Let me be very clear, Joe Biden is the rightful president of the United States,” Dolan said at the Wilberforce debate. “My problem is that he is a failed president.”

Leaning into the culture wars

TV ad battles have also seen Republican candidates make cultural arguments, with Mandel and Vance launching ads in recent days attempting to play on conservatives’ frustrations with their positions being labeled “racist”.

“Are you racist? Do you hate Mexicans?” says Vance in an ad touting his support for Trump’s border wall. Vance uses the ad to highlight his mother’s struggle with addiction, arguing that a tough stance on immigration is an important step in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Meanwhile, Mandel says in a new ad that describes him as “pro-Trump”: “I didn’t do two tours in Anbar province, fighting alongside Marines of all colors, to come home and be called a racist. There is no nothing racist.” about stopping critical race theory and loving America.”

But the set design of the ad also generated controversy. The 30-second spot shows Mandel standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the historic site where peaceful civil rights activists were beaten by police during a 1965 march.

“Martin Luther King marched right here so skin color didn’t matter,” says Mandel.

She also tweeted a thank you to King’s daughter, Bernice King, and the King Center “for motivating me to film this ad. My visit to Selma was powerful and inspiring and I look forward to returning and bringing my children.”

That led Bernice King to reply on twittersaying, “Josh: Unfortunately, I don’t think either I or @TheKingCenter legitimately motivated you to film this ad, as it opposes non-violence and much of what my father taught. I encourage you to study my father/mother.” nonviolence”. In its whole.”
Mandel answered telling King to “better study your history”.

“Your father knew the importance of the Second Amendment when he tried to exercise his right to self-defense,” he said, “and was wrongly denied a gun permit by anti-gun racists.”

Wealthy candidates pour millions into 2022 campaigns

Portman has endorsed Timken, who, however, frequently reminds the public that Trump has endorsed her before.

Timken’s decision to hire Trump 2016 senior campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was another step toward Trump’s orbit. And while Lewandowski is a controversial figure, most other Republican candidates have not criticized his decision to hire him.

“To make a long story short, he was there from the beginning for President Trump,” Mandel said of Lewandowski in the Wilberforce debate, a comment that also underscored Mandel’s apparent belief that his only viable rival is Gibbons.

Only Dolan, in another debate this week, raised the issue of Lewandowski’s hiring, saying Timken “has not yet explained” to voters why it hired Lewandowski, “who has been investigated for assault on women.”

“Corey Lewandowski is a friend of mine,” Timken replied. “He knows that I have been in the trenches fighting for America First policies because Corey came to Ohio and campaigned for President Trump with me.”

Leave a Comment