Ohio GOP Senate showdown: Three top rivals make their case to Trump voters at CPAC – Fox News

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ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s one of the most crowded and combustible Republican Senate primaries in the 2022 election cycle, as all but one of the major candidates in Ohio’s GOP showdown spotlight their support for Donald Trump in hopes of earning the former president’s endorsement.

And three of the leading contenders trekked to Orlando, Florida, the past couple of days to make their case to attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The oldest and largest annual gathering of leaders and activists on the right has become a Trump-fest since the former president’s White House victory in the 2016 election.

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“I’m confident I’m going to be the next United States senator from Ohio. I am the only candidate who’s been unwavering in my support for President Trump and the Trump America First agenda,” Josh Mandel told Fox News during an interview at CPAC.

The former Ohio treasurer and former two-time Senate candidate spotlighted that “instead of running the campaign through tradition Republican Party groups, we’re actually running the campaign through churches and that’s one of the separating factors between my campaign and the other campaigns is that I have this army of grassroots Christian activists through the state of Ohio who are backing me.”

Mandel is one of the handful of leading contenders in the GOP nomination primary in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

The other major candidates are Mike Gibbons, a Cleveland entrepreneur, real estate developer, and investment banker who’s making his second bid for the Senate GOP nomination, J.D. Vance, a hedge fund executive and the best-selling author of the memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken, and state Sen. Matt Dolan, a former prosecutor whose family owns Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, formerly known as the Indians.

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Gibbons, who’s pouring $10 million of his own money to run ads backing his campaign, told Fox News “we’ve worked very hard to get our message out to the voters of the state and it seems to be working pretty well.

He touts that “I’m a businessman, not a politician.” And Gibbons says that he’s “getting a huge response” as he travels around the state in his campaign bus. “People come up to us at truck stops. We’ve made a presence known and that’s what we had to do because I think my story’s the one they want to hear.”

Trump, 13 months removed from the White House, remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP as he remains a kingmaker in Republican primaries and repeatedly teases a 2024 presidential run. But he’s yet to endorse in Ohio’s Senate primary.

“I’ve talked to him. He knows who I am. I was his Ohio finance co-chair in 2016 and I supported all the way through,” Gibbons noted. And he said “I think I’ve got a better than good shot” at landing the former president’s endorsement.

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Ohio’s airwaves have been flooded with commercials, many of them attack ads. Vance, Mandel, and Timken have all faced attacks over their Trump credentials.

“I think we’re in a very good place,” Vance told Fox News minutes after speaking to attendees in the large CPAC ballroom. “I love the president. I love what he did. I think we got some good conversations here. It’s ultimately his choice, obviously. He may endorse, he may stay neutral. But I feel like we’re in a pretty good place and at the end of the day I’m hopeful we’ll get his endorsement.”

Vance, whose political team contains a couple of Trump campaign veterans, spotlighted that “$4 million of anti-Trump money came into the state against me and I decided to push back against it pretty hard and instead of taking it lying down.”

The ads highlighted critical comments Vance made about Trump during the 2016 election. 

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Vance said he “certainly didn’t think Donald Trump was going to be a great president,” but that he “was happy to be proved wrong and he was a great president. Thinking people change their minds on a whole host of topics when the facts change, and I was happy to be proved wrong about Trump.”

The sniping among the candidates over their Trump credentials dates back one year, when Mandel and Timken – the first two major contenders to enter the race – started trying to outdo one another in spotlighting their Trump credentials.

A month later, Trump quizzed Mandel, Timken, Gibbons and Cleveland-based businessman and luxury auto dealership giant Bernie Moreno (who suspended his campaign a month ago) about their support in a private meeting with the four candidates ahead of a fundraiser at his golf course in Palm Beach, Florida.

Fast-forward to this year and the campaigns are continuing to tout their Trump connections. Gibbons recently highlighted that Trump 2020 presidential campaign manager Bill Stepien was joining his team as a top adviser. And Timken spotlighted the endorsement of Trump 2016 general election campaign manager and White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, who previously had backed Moreno. 

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Dolan, who isn’t making a pitch for Trump’s support, didn’t attend CPAC. Neither did Timken, who repeatedly describes herself as an “America First” candidate and a “Trump conservative,” also didn’t travel to Florida for CPAC.

Ohio Senate candidate and former state GOP chair Jane Timken signs a 'Stop Critical Race Theory' pledge, at her campaign office in Columbus, Ohio on July 12, 2021

Ohio Senate candidate and former state GOP chair Jane Timken signs a ‘Stop Critical Race Theory’ pledge, at her campaign office in Columbus, Ohio on July 12, 2021 (Jane Timken Senate campaign)

“Jane had a busy schedule of events in Ohio including meeting with law enforcement, talking about the opioid epidemic and securing the southern border, but we sent several team members to CPAC on behalf of the campaign and to support the MAGA movement,” Timken campaign spokesperson Mandi Merritt told Fox News.

And Merritt noted that “Jane watched President Trump’s speech last night and as usual, thought he made an excellent case for his strong leadership and the America First agenda against the disastrous backdrop of the Biden administration.” 

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Fox Nation is the Featuring Sponsor of CPAC 2022. Watch CPAC speeches live and on-demand on Fox Nation. Sign up using promo code CPAC to receive a 30-day free trial. Offer ends April 30, 2022.

Fox News’ Bryan Preston contributed to this report

Source URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/ohio-gop-senate-showdown-three-top-rivals-make-their-case-trump-voters-cpac

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