All that’s missing is Trump himself.
“She didn’t say anything bad, and I’m absolutely not going to throw her under the bus, or anybody else who’s a friend of mine,” Vance said.
Self-funded financier Mike Gibbons and former state treasurer Josh Mandel also courted Trump aggressively. Gibbons ran as a candidate in the mold of Trump — a former businessman with no real political experience and experience making money in systems he would now like to overhaul.
“You’ve never been in the private sector in your whole life. You don’t know the squat,” Gibbons said.
It’s all happening 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 he would make an endorsement in “about a week.”
Mandel and Gibbons lead the pack in most polls. But Timken and Vance also have some support, and all four have flooded the airwaves with ads.
Dolan, meanwhile, is trying to capitalize on 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
Some, however, continue to succeed. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown won re-election in 2018, earning a 7-point victory as Republicans swept all executive races statewide. And Democrats have also won a handful of statewide court races.
Still, for a Democrat to win in Ohio, broad swathes of independents and Republicans alike would have to find the GOP nominee unacceptable.
With control of a Senate now split 50-50 on the line, losses in any combination of those states could jeopardize Republican hopes in what should otherwise be a good middle ground for the party in the current political environment.
In Ohio, Democratic strategists privately say the Republican who would be hardest to beat in November is the one they’re most certain GOP primary voters won’t name: 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 rivals including Mandel, who say the election of 2020 was stolen from Trump, Dolan acknowledged the reality of Joe Biden’s victory.
“Let me be very clear, Joe Biden is the rightful president of the United States,” Dolan said during the debate at Wilberforce. “My problem is that he is a failed president.”
Looking into the culture wars
The TV ad battles have also seen GOP candidates make cultural arguments — both Mandel and Vance have launched spots in recent days that try to tap into conservative frustrations with their stances labeled as “racist.”
But the advertising landscape has also sparked controversy. The 30-second spot features Mandel standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the historic site where peaceful civil rights activists were beaten by police during a march in 1965.
“Martin Luther King marched here so skin color didn’t matter,” Mandel said.
He also tweeted a thank you to King’s daughter, Bernice King and the King Center “for motivating me to film this commercial. My visit to Selma was powerful and inspiring and I can’t wait to come back and bring my children.”
“Your father knew the importance of the Second Amendment when he tried to exercise his right to self-defense,” he said, “and was wrongfully denied a gun license by racists anti-weapons”.
Portman endorsed Timken, who nonetheless frequently reminds the public that she was once endorsed by Trump.
“Long story short, he was there in the beginning for President Trump,” Mandel said of Lewandowski during 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 that Timken “has yet to explain” to voters why it hired Lewandowski, “who was the subject of a investigation into assaults against women”.
“Corey Lewandowski is a friend of mine,” Timken replied. “He knows I’ve been in the trenches fighting for America First policies because Corey came to Ohio and campaigned for President Trump with me.”