Former President Donald Trump on Saturday rallied for J.D. Vance in the key battleground state of Ohio, seeking to shore up his standing among Republicans with primary season over and a slew of candidates tacking to the middle ahead of the November midterms.
After hailing Vance as an “incredible patriot who will take the fight to Biden and the radical left media every day,” the former president quickly went on the offensive over reporting Saturday that Republican Senate candidates were trying to keep the former president at arm’s length.
Vance “is kissing my ass,” Trump said, before touting his own support in the state he won by 8 points over Joe Biden in 2020. Trump also rallied for Vance in Ohio’s Delaware County in April.
Vance faces Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan to fill the seat vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman. A USA TODAY Network Ohio/Suffolk University poll released Monday showed Vance and Ryan virtually tied.
With Ryan increasingly focused on independent voters, Trump branded the candidate an “anti-energy extremist,” tying him to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and the “Green New Deal.”
Speaking for nearly 2 hours in Youngstown’s Covelli Centre, Trump was in turns bombastic and measured in his delivery, targeting transgender students in sports and calling for the death penalty for drug dealers and human traffickers while contrasting his vision of America with Democrats’ on immigration, crime and abortion.
Trump also talked at length about the ongoing investigations into his own conduct since leaving office, notably the seizure of classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago residence. Referencing the “Washington swamp,” and “the unprecedented weaponization of the Justice Department,” he said, “The people behind these savage witch hunts have no shame or morals, no conscience, and absolutely no respect for the citizens of our country.” He further referred to an “unhinged persecution of me and my staff” that he called “political repression.”
“I hope you’re going to do something about it, J.D.,” Trump repeatedly said throughout the rally.
Hailing the MAGA elements of the boisterous crowd, Trump lauded political allies Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who were both in attendance. Trump stressed that Vance has the support of MAGA-allied Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity alongside Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Trump’s two sons, Eric and Don Jr.
Vance is “going to clinch the Senate for Republicans,” Trump said, despite recent polls suggesting the Senate could be slipping from the GOP’s grasp and with the party at a significant cash disadvantage to the Democrats.
Since the May primary, Ryan has spent $12 million — a significant sum that dwarfs Vance’s $300,000. (Vance and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have run $1.7 million in coordinated ads.) Vance this week joined Republican senatorial candidates including Pennsylvania’s Dr. Mehmet Oz on a fundraising run through Florida accompanied by NRSC’s Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
In a brief speech after being invited to the podium by Trump, Vance assailed Ryan while urging a return to the policies from the former president’s administration he said “made Ohio free and prosperous and secure.”
Trump recently stumped in Pennsylvania for Oz, seeking to convince his MAGA supporters the celebrity TV doctor is one of them.
But in Youngstown, Trump often seemed much more focused on his own electoral fortunes than Vance’s, repeatedly teasing the possibility of his own run. “Stay tuned, everybody. Stay tuned,” he implored the eager crowd.
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