GOP Senate candidates take inspiration from Trump’s playbook as they fight for populist title
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Josh Mandel boasts of being a populist for two decades.
The former state treasurer has presented himself as a disruptor to the status quo since he launched his third candidacy for the US Senate this year. From city council to the state legislature, Mandel said, he raised a middle finger towards the establishment and advocated for voters.
“I owed no one anything,” he said of his candidacy for Ohio House in 2006. “My only commitment was to the people.”
But Mandel isn’t the only Republican candidate in the Senate race chasing the message that propelled former President Donald Trump to power. Observers say it’s a strategy that works in Ohio as the GOP moves to the right and left of politicians like Sen. Rob Portman – but which candidate can make it work remains to be seen.
“There is a way to appeal without sounding like you’re trying too hard,” GOP strategist Mike Hartley said.
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Author JD Vance, former Ohio Republican Party President Jane Timken, Cleveland car dealership Bernie Moreno, and investment banker Mike Gibbons are running in the 2022 GOP primary against Mandel. State Senator Matt Dolan is also considering an offer and has launched a statewide listening tour this summer to inform his decision.
So what are their references?
Moreno and Gibbons are wealthy businessmen who have never been elected. Timken got her job as GOP chair with Trump’s backing. Vance grew up in the Appalachians, his poor, drug-addicted family, before attending Yale and embarking on a career as a venture capitalist. Mandel is a veteran whose history in politics runs deeper than that of his opponents.
And as recent financial disclosures have shown, Moreno, Timken, and Mandel all have huge sums of money under their belt.
“It’s pretty hard to pretend you’re for the people and you’re for the working class when you’ve got seven or more digits in the bank,” said David Cohen, professor of political science at Akron University.
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There have been plenty of attacks since the start of the race as each candidate clamors for the approval of the 45th president. Vance in particular has been criticized for criticizing Trump and his supporters in 2016, but others have been reprimanded for any shred of their history that seems to contradict the Trump doctrine.
They are also fighting over who is most likely to wreak havoc in Washington.
Mandel criticized Vance and Timken on social media, calling himself “an equal opportunity hypocrite blaster.” But Timken did not take the seated attacks.
“Ohioans don’t want a failed career politician who has run for office 11 times in 25 years or a baggage handler from Silicon Valley – they want a Tory disruptor who will go to Washington to cut the noise and make get things done, and that’s Jane Timken, ”campaign spokeswoman Mandi Merritt said.
Vance, for his part, claims he largely ignores the slime bashing.
“JD clearly has all the momentum in the race,” said spokesperson Taylor Van Kirk. to grow.”
$ 3.5 trillion spending program Democrats want to push through reconciliation (making it filibuster-proof) includes funds to pave the way for citizenship for an unknown number of immigrants , according to The Hill.
The Ohio State GOP
The primary for next year’s Senate race is months away, giving campaigns more time than it takes to rise or fall. That means it’s too early to tell who has an advantage, especially when all of the candidates have some credibility and funding to back them up, observers say.
But what is certain is the appetite of many Ohio Republicans for a more populist Trumpian candidate – not another Portman.
“One of the things I learned during my time in politics is that your representatives and candidates often reflect the electorate themselves,” said strategist Hartley.
Some believe there are voters who are looking for a less disruptive, policy-oriented Republican candidate. Beth Hansen, a consultant who worked for former Gov. John Kasich, said the most dramatic change in the Ohio GOP has been among activists most heavily involved in politics.
Trump’s message has drawn angry Ohioans, especially in rural areas, and something similar is likely to prevail in next year’s Senate race, Hansen said. But she argues that the party structure will change in the future as more politicians take office and Trump supporters lose interest in elections without his name on the ballot.
“The party will start to reflect these people, these candidates,” said Hansen. “At the moment, absolutely the structure of the party has changed, but I have a feeling that it will change again over time.”
For now, however, the GOP mood is clear – and Senate candidates are fighting tooth and nail to appeal to that base.
“I think the Ohio Republican Party has been transformed and reworked in the image of Donald Trump,” Professor Cohen said.
Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Senate Race: GOP Candidates Fight for the Populist Path