One of the biggest questions of former President Donald Trump’s post-presidency is the extent of his continued influence over his supporters and the Republican Party base more broadly, particularly when it comes to his candidate endorsements.
According to CNN, one of Trump’s biggest early tests in that regard is his endorsement of author J.D. Vance to be the GOP Senate nominee in Ohio.
There is a crowded field of Republican candidates ahead of the state’s May 3 primary contest who are vying to win the nomination to replace outgoing Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).
Trump endorsed Vance
Trump issued a resounding endorsement of Vance in a statement released on April 15 through his Save America PAC, in which he declared that Vance was “the candidate most qualified and ready to win in November.”
That endorsement came as a surprise to some, given Vance’s previously openly expressed opposition to Trump in 2016, but the former president addressed that matter in his statement, and noted, “Like some others, J.D. Vance may have said some not so great things about me in the past, but 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 — they’ve said great things about ‘Trump’ and, like me, they love Ohio and love our Country,” Trump added but reiterated that, out of all of the candidates in the race, he had assessed Vance as having the best chance to defeat his likely Democratic opponent in November, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH).
Past criticism could be an issue for supporters, but not for Trump
About a week after that statement was issued, former President Trump held a rally in Ohio where he more formally endorsed Vance and again directly addressed the concerns expressed by some of his supporters about the candidate’s prior harsh criticism of the man who was now endorsing him.
“You know what, he’s a guy who said some bad s–t about me,” Trump joked at the rally, according to Newsweek. “But you know what, every one of the others did also. In fact, if I went by that standard, I don’t think I would have ever endorsed anyone in the country.”
While there may be an element of truth to that remark, it doesn’t change the fact that there are now some sore feelings in Ohio following Trump’s endorsement of Vance, particularly among the former president’s supporters who had already aligned with other candidates who have arguably been loyal supporters of Trump themselves for longer periods of time, such as former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, businessman Mike Gibbons, and former Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken, according to CNN.
The outlet noted that the big question now, just days ahead of the primary vote, is whether Trump’s endorsement of a relative political newcomer over more established candidates will still pull enough weight among the GOP base in Ohio to help Vance secure the party’s nomination.
Poll shows Vance with a solid lead in Ohio GOP Senate primary race
While CNN speculates, though, Breitbart looked at a recent poll of likely Republican primary voters in Ohio and found that Vance, who had been locked in a three-way tie in March with Mandel and Gibbons, had surged to the lead following the endorsement, first with 25 percent support on April 19 and then with 31 percent support on April 26.
That poll may well have also answered CNN’s question, as the pollsters also surveyed the field after informing respondents of Trump’s endorsement and found that, once voters were aware of that fact, support for Vance increased from 31 to 39 percent