Final Leg of Highly Contested Ohio Senate GOP Primary

Ten days before the Republican primary in Ohio, candidates prepare their closing speeches.

Much of the campaign has revolved around former President Trump’s recent support of novelist J.D. Vance. That led to a major shift in how other contenders are targeting Republican primary voters.

The Contenders

The Ohio Senate seat will be vacant following the November 2022 midterms when Republican Sen. Rob Portman retires.

Republicans are expected to keep the Senate seat, despite a likely Democratic challenger, Rep. Tim Ryan. In a 50-50 Senate, VP Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote gave Democrats the majority, making the GOP primary vital.

Vance’s main GOP opponents are Rep. Matt Dolan, co-owner of the Cleveland Guardians MLB club, investment manager Mike Gibbons, state legislator Treasurer Josh Mandel, and past state Republican Party Chairperson Jane Timken.

Trump’s endorsement of Vance looms large in the final days of the primary.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, David Cohen of the University of Akron said, “Ordinarily, endorsements don’t matter,” but Trump continues to influence the Republican base.

It remains to be seen if the support will help Vance, who was trailing in the polls before the endorsement.

“In a close race, and especially in a multicandidate contest like the Republican Senate primary, that may make the difference,” Cohen said. “I wouldn’t be shocked if Vance got a small raise, maybe just a few points.”

Cohen said the close race might change based on late-breaking news or Republican pushback against Trump’s backing of Vance.

Trump’s Support

Mandel, a fervent Trump fan who embraced the former president’s unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was rigged, has continued to seek Trump’s supporters.

This includes former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn. Flynn was acquitted by Trump in November 2020 after he lied to the FBI about his discussions with a Russian official.

Mandel’s supporters, such as the Club for Growth, remained loyal when Trump endorsed Vance.

Some in Trump’s campaign, including son Donald Trump Jr., criticized Mandel. He also reacted angrily to some Mandel supporters who advocated for voters to boycott Trump’s event with Vance.

Other contenders in the election generally accepted Trump’s backing while promoting their own ideas.

Gibbons’ campaign also arranged a rally in Delaware on Saturday with Trump and his favored candidates, including Vance.

Timken said she expects to capture Trump’s support in the general election. Timken’s campaign is touting her as a fighter for Ohio families.

Dolan is embarking on a “No Nonsense” campaign trip, positioning himself as the only contender with legislative experience.

Among the contenders, Dolan has been the harshest on Trump, despite supporting some of his policies.

Dolan said on Friday that his conservative legislative background would help him win over people tired of the race’s shenanigans.

Many Republican primary voters in the Columbus region remain hesitant, with some expressing displeasure at the name-calling they say they have heard in television advertising.

A Dolan devotee stated his TV advertising convinced her.

Only a few individuals cited education as a reason for voting for Mandel. Another mentioned Vance’s foreign policy strategy as a reason to support him.