Ohio Republican J.D. Vance is the latest Senate candidate to earn the coveted Trump endorsement, making him a viable option in a crowded field of potential nominees battling to succeed retiring Senator Rob Portman. Vance is aggressively capitalizing on the endorsement of former President Donald Trump as the primary approaches, counting on voters who supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 to rally behind his candidacy.
J.D. Vance celebrates endorsement from former president
For a time it was questionable that Trump would endorse anyone at all in the Ohio race; Republicans, including some of Trump’s closest allies, have been divided over their choice of nominee.
Most of the Republican candidates made it clear that they wanted the Trump endorsement, and any pick would have been controversial.
As the prospect of an endorsement for Vance approached, other Republicans reportedly pleaded with the former president to reconsider and select another candidate.
Trump refused, confirming his support for Vance despite the fact that the “Hillbilly Elegy” author described himself in 2016 as a staunch opponent of then-candidate Trump.
Both men have acknowledged that 2016 opposition; Vance claims that he was wrong about Trump and became a supporter after observing his time in the White House.
Trump, in his endorsement announcement, admitted that Vance had criticized him in the past but assured any skeptical supporters that Vance “gets it now.”
Ohio race is still close
This is a high-risk, high-reward move for Trump; Vance is behind in the polls and the former president has alienated some powerful Republicans who would have preferred he stay out of the race.
A loss for Vance would mean that an enthusiastic endorsement from the former president is not enough to secure a nomination in the GOP of 2022. This would be a bad sign for Trump’s future role in the party.
Alternatively, a victory for Vance would be a significant boost to Trump’s position ahead of a 2024 comeback.
With several candidates ahead of him in the polls at the time of the endorsement, victory for Vance would be undeniable proof that a word from Trump is still enough to decide a race.
Businessman Mike Gibbons and 2012 nominee Josh Mandel both have strong leads over the other candidates. Without a Trump endorsement, the race would have been a contest between these two.
By endorsing Vance, Trump has drastically changed the state of the race. On May 3, Ohio voters will decide if that support from the former president is convincing enough to make them choose J.D. Vance over an assortment of other strong options.