Ohio Republicans are urging former President Donald Trump not to back Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in the state’s high-stakes GOP Senate primary on May 3.
NBC News reported Thursday that Trump was about to put his weight behind Vance – who’s currently polling in second place in the crowded field – but allies of rival GOP candidates Josh Mandel, the state’s former treasurer, and Jane Timken, a former Ohio Republican Party chair, held up the announcement.
Politico reported Thursday night that more than three dozen GOP chairs and state party central committee members signed a letter asking Trump not to endorse Vance, pointing out to the ex-president that the author ‘referred to your supporters as “racists” and proudly voted for Evan McMullin in 2016.’
Former President Donald Trump (left) is expected to endorse Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance (right) in Ohio’s crowded Republican Senate primary, NBC News reported Thursday, however a number of Ohio Republicans have urged the ex-president to stay out of the race
One of the Republican officials whose name appeared on the letter, Putnam County GOP’s Chairman Tony Schroeder later came out and said he didn’t agree to put his name on the document, which was leaked to Politico.
Additionally, Politico reported that a pro-Mandel polling firm, Remington Research, circulated a memo pegging Vance as a loser – even with Trump’s nudge.
‘J.D. Vance will still lose even with President Trump’s endorsement,’ the memo, authored by Remington’s President Titus Bond, said. ‘J.D. Vance is widely known by Republican Primary voters for his Never-Trumper comments and his calling Trump supporters “racists.”‘
‘Since he is already known to Ohioans as a self-proclaimed “Never Trumper” and voters will forcefully be reminded of that, Vance will still lose even with President Trump’s endorsement,’ Bond said.
The memo said that even with the Trump bump, Vance would come in fourth in the primary, at around 15 per cent.
Mandel had shared a clip of Vance in August, in which the author said that some of Trump’s supporters are racist.
The clip cuts off before Vance then says that most of them are not.
‘I always resist the idea that the real thing driving most Trump voters was racial anxiety or racial animus, partially because I didn’t see it. I mean, the thing that really motivated people to vote for Trump first in the primary and then in the general election was three words: jobs, jobs, jobs,’ Vance said at a University of Chicago Institute of Politics event in 2017.
Vance, Mandel and Timken haven’t even historically been the leaders of the race, with the polling edge until recently going to Republican businessman Mike Gibbons.
However Gibbons ‘is not on his radar,’ one source close to Trump told Politico.
A Trafalgar Group poll released Friday morning showed Mandel and Vance had leapfrogged Gibbons in the latest survey, coming in first and second, respectively.
State Sen. Matt Dolan, whose family owns the newly renamed Cleveland Guardians baseball team, is also running.
Trump has already expressed he won’t be supporting Dolan.
‘Anybody that changes the name of the once storied Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians should not be running for the United States Senate representing the Great People of Ohio,’ Trump said in September when Dolan announced his Senate bid.
And the ex-president had previously considered endorsing Timken, Politico reported.
Trump decided against throwing his weight behind the former Ohio GOP official due to the fact that she initially was supportive of Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted in favor of Trump’s second impeachment.
Timken later criticized Gonzalez and said he should step down, coming back in step with the ex-president.
Trump’s first rally in 2021 was to Gonzalez’s Congressional district outside of Cleveland, so he could endorse his former aide Max Miller, running to unseat him.
Since then, Gonzalez has said he’s retiring from Congress.
Politico reported Thursday night that Trump’s decision is between Mandel and Vance, but the ex-president was reportedly more impressed by Vance’s performance in a recent debate.
Vance, however, had been publicly critical of Trump in the past.
Pro-Mandel PACs Club for Growth Action and USA Freedom Fund ran ads starting in October highlighting statements the author made about Trump – who continues to be beloved among most Republican primary voters.
‘I’m a Never Trump guy,’ Vance expressed to host Charlie Rose in a 2016 clip. ‘I never liked him.’
The ads also ran a screenshot of an October 2016 tweet from Vance that read: ‘My god what an idiot.’
Vance has since said he regrets the statements.
Trump told Club for Growth President David McIntosh he didn’t like the pro-Mandel ads that portrayed Vance as a flip-flopper on the ex-president, Politico reported in December.
Trump called McIntosh and said he was worried that the ads could drive down Trump’s own popularity in the state, and asked that he stop airing them.
On Saturday, Trump endorsed another household name in the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary – television personality, Dr. Mehmet Oz.
The choice rattled some of Trump’s conservative allies due to Oz’s formerly liberal positions on social issues like abortion.