COLOMBUS, Ohio — Josh Mandel’s bet was simple: No one would outdo him in the opposite of Donald J. Trump, whether in the hard-right America First positions or the former president’s style of war.
So, mr. “They are the racists, not us,” Mandel said of Black Lives Matter activists. It provoked hostility towards immigrants among them refugee from AfghanistanHe falsely claimed that the 2020 elections had been stolen from Mr. trump card. He is the Jewish grandson of a Holocaust survivor whose website features a Christian cross. Mandel stumbled mostly on evangelical churches, claiming that “there is no such thing” as the separation of church and state.
For a long time, it worked. Mr. Mandel was the presumptive front-runner in crowded Republican Square for US Senators from Ohio.
But two weeks ago, it was the only person he sought to impress – the ex-president himself – who rejected the master. Mandel, a former Treasurer, gave his coveted endorsement to JD Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” who reworked the race overnight.
Mr. Vance, who was late in the polls and ran out of money, has seen an increase in donations and support since Mr. Embrace Trump, as the first major midterm Senate primary elections enter the final weekend ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
And around the state, Republicans including Mr. Mandel. Mr. Vance. Mike Gibbons, self-funded entrepreneur; And Senator Matt Dolan spread out a preview of the upcoming GOP national policy — various moons orbiting the mr. Sun Trump.
Saturday, mr. Vance campaigned with two far-right members of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida. Mr. Mandel wandered through the state’s major cities — Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati — with his conservative ally, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
to the old acquaintances and observers of mr. Mandel, 44, who promoted civility and partisanship early in his career, and his unreciprocated embrace of Trumpism and divisiveness suggested that there was a price for political calculus.
“I see the desperation there over the past few months,” said Matt Cox, a former Republican activist who was an early advisor to Matt Cox. Mandel before the dispute. I think his strategy was: Well, Trump won eight points twice. All I have to do to become the nominee is to become like Trump.”
The candidate most left on the sidelines since Mr. Trump knot in Mr. Vance, according to polls, was Jane Timkin. The only woman working Ms. Timken was approved by withdrawing Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a center-right throwback to the former Ohio Republican who voted with Senate Democrats for a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Ms. Timken has strong Trump-era credentials – she headed the country’s party while Mr. Trump was in office — but she doesn’t emulate the former president’s oppressed style, which was key to unleashing the most fervent Republican voters. It has distinguished itself from competitors who, she says, strive every day to “un-Twitter” with their outlandish statements and actions.
In a debate in March, Mr. Mandel almost got into a physical confrontation with Mr. Gibbons.
At Columbus Baptist Church on Saturday, Mr. Mandel took aim at popular targets from the right, including transgender people, “knee” Republicans like Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and the “liberal media in the back of the room” (just minutes after reporters amicably welcomed by name to a private session). Rooms).
Fitting the setting, the older crowd in the seats called out to cheer “Amen!” or groan audibly when he was mr. Mandel mentioned enemies.
“The reason we won on Tuesday is because we have this army of Christian warriors all over the state,” he pledged.
One of the priests, Dan Wolfen, said he “feels sorry” for Mr. Trump endorsed Vance, saying he was “listening to the wrong people.” Still, mr. Wolfen predicted that Trump would not win Mr. Vance “about five points” on Election Day, conceding, “It’s a lot for Josh to make up for.”
Rejected or not, mr. Mandel was still flying the Trump flag.
“I supported President Trump yesterday. I support him today and I will continue to support him tomorrow.” He predicted that the former president would return to the White House, “and I look forward to working with him.”
The candidates, to varying degrees, all agree. Here are snapshots from across Ohio in the campaign’s final weekend.
JD Vance in Newark, Ohio
J.D. Vance, author and venture capitalist, took to the stage at the Trout Club in Newark, Ohio, with the confidence of the nominal leader, a status bestowed upon him by Mr. Trump endorsement on April 15.
About 75 people gathered in the bar and restaurant of a well-trimmed country club that warmed the crowd by the master. Gaetz and Ms. Greene, who was scrutinizing talking points on the right margin: “medical tyranny,” “opening borders,” “pediatric clinics” turning boys into girls, men in women’s bathrooms and women’s sports, and the Walt Disney Company “preparing” gay and transgender children .
Mr. Vance immersed himself in some of the same topics, but seemed more intent on examining the larger issues he planned to discuss in the upcoming general election.
He criticized both parties for free trade agreements that he said sent Ohio manufacturing to Mexico and China, due to “a bipartisan decision to allow American Wall Street companies to get rich from the growth of China and not from the growth of the American middle class.” He also accused financial companies of allowing “the Chinese to enter this country, buying our land.” Agriculture, buying our single family homes, making it impossible for young families to buy a home, and own a stake in their own country.”
“That’s the game they’re playing, and I’m running for the US Senate to go and play a different game, and it’s a game where we put our citizens and the people in this room first,” he said to a cheer.
The people in that room – off a green golf course away from illegal immigrants and drug-infested towns that Mr. Vance speaks on the stump – struggling white workers were not central to his memoir, “The Hillbilly Elegy.” But the unspoken truth is that his audience is the true essence of the pro-Trump vote in Ohio. The only income group that President Biden won in this state in 2020 was the group of voters earning less than $50,000. More wealthy voters went to mr. trump card.
But economic issues in general – and the Chinese threat in particular – have resonated.
“This is in Ohio’s DNA,” said Representative Tim Ryan, the likely Democratic nominee for the upcoming Senate race.
Mr. A reporter asked Vance why he had invited Ms. Greene and mr. Gaetz to barnstorm across Ohio with him at the closing weekend of the preliminary campaign.
“There is nothing more disgusting in politics than the way leadership tells you to stab your friends in the back,” he said before heading with them to West Chester, outside Cincinnati. He added to emphasize, “I will not disavow them because some scumbag who has no Ohioan interest at heart want me to.”
Mike Gibbons in Dublin, Ohio
Mr. Gibbons likes to wear a dark blue suit coat and red tie reminiscent of Mr. trump card. He has a habit of reminding voters that he is a businessman, not a politician. And he talks a lot about how, in 1989, he started his investment banking and financial advisory firm in a small Cleveland office with nothing but a desk and phone.
But tradition did not win mr. Gibbons is the endorsement of the former president he sought to emulate, approaching the final stage of the primaries the way he began: with his own wealth and his personal fortune.
In an interview with him on a bus he carried on Saturday, Mr. Gibbons emphasized his continuing roots in Ohio and his business credentials as the best fit for Ohio voters.
“I was shocked,” Mr. Gibbons said of mr. Trump’s approval of Mr. Vance, referring to his opponent as the one who “flew off the West Coast.” “The people of Ohio should be insulted,” he added.
Outside, two volunteers mingled in the parking lot of a grocery store near Columbus, took swag gibbons and ate pizza, before spreading out to knock on doors.
Mr. Gibbons grew up in Parma, a working-class suburb outside of Cleveland. He was a one-time professional soccer player, and at the age of 37, he founded Brown Gibbons Lang & Company. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2018, this time pumping nearly $17 million into his campaign, making him the largest self-financed funder in the race.
He drew some scrutiny in March over comments he made in 2013 about China and Asians that used offensive stereotypes and was later criticized for a heated debate stage meeting with Mr. Mandel.
Mr. Gibbons served as Mr. Trump’s co-chair of the Ohio fundraiser in 2016. But crucially, his supporters say, his path veered sharply from Mr. Trump. Trump: Mr. Gibbons never received a multi-million dollar loan from his father to launch his business empire.
“I like that he’s from Parma, Ohio — the real kind of people who have worked so hard for everything he has in life and made his way,” said Michael Palescu, 54, a teacher and veteran in Cleveland.
Jasmine Ulloa and Kevin Williams
Matt Dolan in North Royalton, Ohio
On an overcast Saturday morning, said Mr. Dolan knocks on doors in an affluent suburb of South Cleveland. He was lobbying at the last minute to get voters to the polls, and on his list of targets were registered Republicans who had not yet cast their ballots. But on his way, he was likely to meet Democrats and independents who were supporting his candidacy — or simply cheering him on.
“If you have to be a Republican, I hope you are,” Rich Evans, 69, a retired teacher, told him when he stopped beautifying his garden for a handshake.
from the start mr. Dolan, who has served at the state headquarters since 2017 and whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, was walking down his secluded lane. He is the only Republican candidate who supports Mr. Trump but he tried to put some distance between him and Mr. trump card.
Mr. Trump “did a lot of good things for Ohio,” Dolan said. But he said he wanted his campaign to remain focused on Ohio. He wanted to return to the politics discussed, and he certainly did not want re-litigation in the last election.
“I don’t look back,” he said.
Like other Republicans in the race, he said he wants to secure the border, cut off the flow of fentanyl into the state and tackle inflation. But he also said he could do more than his competitors to bring workers into the country and set a unique economic development agenda.
It hardly ever trumps. He said he voted for Mr. In the last presidential election, Trump opposed the two impeachment cases against him and said he would support the former president if he becomes the Republican nominee for 2024.
But in January. 6, mr. Dolan was not shy about criticizing mr. Trump for spreading lies about the results of the November 2020 election, Writing on Twitter, “Real leaders lead not to be manipulated.” Unlike the other leading Republican candidates in the race, he also recognizes President Biden as the nation’s legitimate leader.
That was a position Pat Ryan, 64, said he respected. Standing at his door, Ryan, who considers himself a Democrat, said he plans to vote in this year’s Republican primary because of Mr. Dolan. “I looked at all the candidates, and he’s the most honest,” he said.