Former President Donald Trump visited Ohio on Saturday to tout his chosen candidates for U.S. Senate and a slate of local congressional races for the upcoming primary election.
Trump began speaking shortly before 7 p.m. at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, a venue he visited during his 2016 election bid. The former president last came to Ohio in June 2021.
The rally came 10 days before Ohio’s May 3 primary during a crowded and contentious GOP Senate primary race. There are seven Republicans vying for the chance to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman.
After months of speculation on whether Trump would endorse in the Senate race, he announced his backing of candidate J.D. Vance just last week.
The endorsement has garnered criticism because of past remarks Vance has made about Trump, including text messages that have resurfaced from a former roommate.
Here’s the latest on Saturday’s rally.
Ohio Republicans get shout outs
Trump thanked a slate of Republicans for their work in Ohio, including Secretary of State Frank LaRose and auditor Keith Faber. He applauded LaRose specifically for his role in the state’s redistricting process.
He didn’t acknowledge the candidates running for governor this year, but he made a reference to “this terrible governor that you had” when talking about former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP primary. Trump also praised Ohio Republican Party chair Bob Paduchik.
Trump touts Vance endorsement
Trump invited Vance onto the stage partway through his remarks, calling him the GOP’s best chance to keep Ohio’s Senate seat in Republican hands. He said he likes other candidates running against Vance but contended Vance will “deliver an historic victory for America First in Ohio.”
“He’s a guy that said some bad shit about me,” Trump said. “He did. But you know what, everyone of the others did also. If I went by that standard, I don’t think I would’ve endorsed anybody in the country.”
Trump goes after Biden
Trump kicked off his speech early and took hits at the Biden administration for inflation and foreign policy, among other issues. He incorrectly claimed he may have won the 2020 election in Ohio by more than 8 percentage points, which was the result certified by state election officials.
Trump also told the crowd they need to send Vance to the U.S. Senate and kept directing comments to “J.D.” throughout his remarks.
J.D. Vance makes his case
The crowd greeted the author and venture capitalist with a mixture of boos, cheers and chants of “J.D.!” He touted himself as the “America First candidate” and ticked through his policy positions on the U.S.-Mexico border, technology companies and public health mandates.
He also admitted that he was late to embrace Trump.
“When we get to the Senate, we’re going to do something,” Vance said. “No more talking. No more slogans. No more politicians who wag their fingers at the corrupt Big Tech officials and the FBI. It’s time for consequences, and it’s time for action.”
Candidates, elected officials take stage ahead of Trump’s remarks
Hours before Trump was scheduled to speak, a slew of Ohio Republican officials who secured his endorsement lauded his leadership and criticized President Joe Biden.
U.S. Rep. Mike Carey, R-Columbus, and U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, were the only Republicans currently in office who spoke. Also taking the stage were MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell – who peddles conspiracies about the 2020 election – 7th Congressional District candidate Max Miller and 13th Congressional District candidate Madison Gesiotto Gilbert.
“The midterm elections are here…the America First agenda is returning to Washington,” Miller told the crowd.
Governor’s race looms over rally
Gov. Mike DeWine did not attend Trump’s rally and recently tested positive for COVID-19, but his campaign staff greeted people at the fairgrounds earlier Saturday. Attendees cast the governor as a “Republican in name only” and criticized his response to the pandemic.
“As long as they get DeWine out, I’m good with it,” Dayton resident Steve Callahan said of the race.
DeWine’s opponents are hoping to capitalize on that frustration. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci was at the rally, and Canal Winchester farmer Joe Blystone peppered the fairgrounds with campaign signs.
A house divided
A couple from Lebanon attending today’s Trump rally is a house divided when it comes to Ohio’s U.S. Senate race. Christy Bessey said she’s been leaning toward Mandel and accused Vance of jumping on the Trump bandwagon. Her husband, Wals, is a Vance supporter.
The two are going to listen to both candidates speak at upcoming events and base their final decision on that.
“I don’t want anyone getting there on the coat tails of somebody else’s name,” Christy Bessey said.
Vance only Senate candidate at Trump rally
Former state treasurer Josh Mandel, former state Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, investment banker Mike Gibbons and state Sen. Matt Dolan did not attend Saturday’s rally. Gibbons’ campaign held an event outside the fairgrounds earlier in the day.
The four are facing Vance in the May 3 primary to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman and had hoped to receive the former president’s backing.
Trump endorses LaRose for Ohio Secretary of State
Just before his Ohio rally Saturday, Trump sent out a statement endorsing Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose for re-election. LaRose also announced his endorsement of J.D. Vance in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
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