Ohio Republican voters will decide on their U.S. Senate nominee Tuesday, after an expensive, contentious, bruising race filled with personal attacks and overshadowed by a months-long battle for former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.
The drama could extend late into the night Tuesday, with a wide-open race between former venture capitalist J.D. Vance, investment banker Mike Gibbons, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken, and state Sen. Matt Dolan.
All five of those major candidates say they believe they’re in striking distance, particularly with a massive number of undecided voters for so late in a race.
“I was the last person into this race, so the undecideds have had multiple times to go with any other candidate. So as they’re becoming aware of me, that’s where I’m rising in the polls,” Dolan told Fox News in a Sunday interview at an Ottawa County Republican Women’s Club event.
“We’re gonna run through the tape till the polls close on May 3,” Timken said at a rally with supporters in Columbus Saturday.
“The conservative grassroots know that there’s only one fighter, there’s only one true conservative in this race, and it’s me, Josh Mandel,” Mandel said in an interview with Fox News at a Friday rally.
The fallout of the race isn’t just limited to who will represent the GOP on the November ballot against the Democratic nominee, who will likely be Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. The Ohio race will be the first major test of Trump’s endorsement power ahead of a month in which several other Trump-endorsed candidates face tough primaries.
Despite aggressive lobbying from Gibbons, Timken and Mandel, Trump eventually chose Vance for his endorsement. That immediately catapulted the “Hillbilly Elegy” author to front-runner status.
“The president himself has endorsed us, Donald Trump Jr.,” Vance said Saturday. “I think that sends a signal that I’m not gonna stab our voters in the back.”
But that may not have quelled all Trump-supporting voters’ concerns about Vance, who was highly critical of Trump in 2016 and 2017.