Donald Trump sought to stop Democratic Senate candidate Tim Ryan’s attempt to win over his supporters at a rally in Ohio on Saturday, telling the audience that the Democrat is no friend of the Trump movement, even though he’s “acting like he’s my friend in politics.” “.
Trump’s appearance in support of Republican Senate candidate JD Vance is the latest stop on his tour to support the candidate he helped win the contentious Republican primary. Trump has used his endorsement to help Senate candidates such as Arizona’s Vance, Blake Masters and Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz get out of heavily Republican fields. But these candidates have struggled to make it to the general election, plagued by depleted campaign coffers and poor post-primary fundraising, forcing the former president to once again help them.
Trump’s impact on the Republican primaries is as clear as his impact on the general election. But Republicans working to take back the Senate now find themselves in a scenario where the nominees Trump helped nominate are crucial to their hopes of controlling the chamber in 2023.
For this, Trump has taken the path. The former president headlined a rally in Pennsylvania two weeks ago where Oz spoke and the former president praised the famous doctor, albeit briefly. Trump will host an event in North Carolina on Friday with U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, a state Senate candidate who has the former president’s endorsement, and later in Michigan with a string of endorsed candidates.
In Ohio, Ryan is mounting a stronger challenge to Vance than expected, distancing himself from some Democratic policies and embracing aspects of Trump’s tenure. Ryan has it run ads criticizing his partyPresident Joe Biden suggested he should not run for re-election and – given Ohio’s recent swing to the right – stressed the need for Democrats to win over Trump voters.
“I agreed with Trump on trade,” Ryan said in a TV ad this summer. “I voted against part-time hiring.”
Trump has clearly taken Ryan’s strategy into account: his rally on Saturday was in Youngstown, the heart of Ryan’s congressional district.
“He looked at my poll numbers. I think he’s running, JD, on an I love Donald Trump policy,” Trump said of Ryan, adding, “I don’t like him and I don’t like him. It’s been great.”
Huddled in Youngstown, Trump is entering the realm that shaped Ryan. Raised in nearby Niles, Ohio, Ryan has represented the community throughout his political career, and the Mahoning County area has become synonymous with union-backed Democratic politics. But Mahoning has swung Republican after years of being a Democratic stronghold: In 2020, Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win the county since Richard Nixon in 1972.
“I won his field by a lot,” Trump said, “We won Ohio twice. … We won in two landslides and now we have to give JD a landslide.”
One way Ohio Democrats have sought to win over Trump voters is by calling Vance a fake, repeatedly pointing out that in 2016 the now-Trump-endorsed Senate candidate criticized the former president.
“Yeah, he said some bad things about me,” Trump said with a smile, acknowledging past criticism of Vance. “But that was before he met me. And then he fell in love.”
Trump’s remarks were laced with his trademark whiny politics. The former president said, “I’ve been harassed, investigated, defamed, slandered and harassed for six straight years” like no other president in history, adding that people “aren’t just coming after me, they’re coming after you through me.”
His complaints weren’t just about Democrats, however. While complaining about inflation, Trump said: “Mitch McConnell better get on the ball and stay in the Senate. He’s like a Democrat.”
And Trump also tasked Vance with confronting the Senate Republican leader and “getting him out of there.”
“Mitch McConnell is a disgrace and I hope you do something, JD,” Trump said, putting Vance in an uncomfortable position as Senate Majority PAC, a group with close ties to McConnell, was forced to set aside $28 million. Ohio TV ad time, an expense a Republican in the race didn’t expect early in the cycle.
At the end of June, Ryan had collected $21.8 million in the 2022 cycle, while Vance had only $3.5 million. The Democrat entered the second half of the year with a 5-to-1 lead over his GOP opponent.
And in Vance’s case, the money problems go beyond his fundraising.
To get through the primary, Vance needed outside help from billionaire tech mogul Peter Thiel, who poured millions into a pro-Vance super PAC. The money Thiel spent promoting Vance helped Trump back the Republican nominee.
But when Vance dropped out of the primary, Thiel stopped spending on Vance’s campaign, causing major rifts between the PayPal founder and Republicans like McConnell, who lobbied for Thiel to spend more on Senate campaigns.
Much of Trump’s speech focused on his personal politics rather than Vance or others. Trump continued to tease the 2024 race, something he has been doing for months.
“I ran twice, I won twice,” Trump said, before adding, “I might have to do it again.”
The crowd erupted as Trump continued to lie about the 2020 election, a sign that election denial is a key motivator for the former president’s supporters.
“Stay tuned, everyone. Stay tuned”, he added.
Trump was scheduled to begin speaking at 7 p.m., the same time the Ohio State Buckeyes kicked off against the Toledo Rockets less than 200 miles away in Columbus. Vance, who graduated from Ohio State, said he thought the rally would end at 8:30 p.m., so people could watch the second half. Trump began speaking at 7:44 pm ET and didn’t end until 9:25 pm ET, when the Ohio State game entered the third quarter with Ohio State leading 49-21.
Trump acknowledged the Ohio State football game, saying, “You’re playing a football game and it didn’t cause this crowd.”
Democrats responded to Trump’s appearance, mostly by calling it less important than the Ohio State game.
“I was too busy watching football, but I’m sure the San Francisco fake JD Vance and his out-of-state allies who tried to talk to a half-empty stadium would have disappointed all the Ohioans who were also busy tuning in to the Ohio State-Toledo game,” said Jordan Fuja, A spokesman for Ryan, who was at the Ohio State game Saturday night.
The scene around the event was like most other Trump rallies, where some of the former president’s most ardent acolytes strolled while his devoted followers lined up for hours to get in. the contents of his phone with a grand jury subpoena as part of an investigation into an election security breach in Colorado.
Trump did not mention Lindell from the stage.