CLEVELAND — Donald Trump has officially entered Ohio's 2022 political fray, announcing his endorsement Friday of J.D. Vance in the state's hotly contested U.S. Senate race.
In a statement released this afternoon, the former president called Vance "the candidate most qualified and ready to win in November." Trump's announcement comes less than three weeks before the May 3 primary elections, where a crowded field of Republicans and several Democrats are attempting to replace the retiring Rob Portman.
"He is our best chance for victory in what could be a very tough race," Trump said of Vance, a Middletown native who made his living as a venture capitalist before rising to fame with his bestselling memoir "Hillbilly Elegy." "It is time for the entire MAGA movement, the greatest in the history of our Country, to unite behind J.D.'s campaign because, unlike so many other pretenders and wannabes, he will put America First."
U.S. SENATE RACE IN OHIO: Who are the candidates running and what else you need to know before May 3 primary
Unlike other contenders such as Josh Mandel and Jane Timken, Vance has no prior political experience, and has attempted to portray himself as an "outsider" in the race. He also seems to have done a complete 180 on Trump himself, a man he once called "reprehensible," among other things.
In the years since, Vance has deleted those tweets and gone on to praise the former president, even adopting some of his incendiary rhetoric and echoing false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Trump acknowledged Vance "may have said some not so great things about me in the past," but claimed "he gets it now, and I have seen that in spades."
"This is not an easy endorsement for me to make because I like and respect some of the other candidates in the race," Trump added, speaking to the great lengths most candidates have gone to in an effort to get his endorsement. "They've said great things about 'Trump' and, like me, they love Ohio and love our Country."
Trump further went on to praise Vance's "brains and brawn" as both an Iraq War veteran (performing public affairs duties) and a graduate of Yale Law School. Without mentioning presumptive Democratic nominee Tim Ryan by name, he also said Vance would "destroy him in the debates" and be "strong on the Border, tough on Crime, [understand] how to use Taxes and Tariffs to hold China accountable, [and] will fight to break up Big Tech."
In a tweet posted Friday, Vance said he was "honored to have President Trump's support" and pledged to "fight for the America First Agenda in the Senate."
A University of Akron poll from last month had Mandel and Mike Gibbons neck-and-neck at the top of the GOP Senate race, with Vance roughly 10 points behind in third. Mandel and Timken both acknowledged Trump's endorsement of Vance but pledged to keep fighting for the nomination and "earning [Trump's] endorsement in the general election."
Ryan also shot back at Trump's endorsement, calling Vance "a Silicon Valley elitist and a phony" and taking pride that the former president called him "dangerous."