OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
It appears as though Donald Trump still has the political Midas touch, much to the chagrin of his detractors in both parties.
When Trump endorsed noted author J.D. Vance out of a fairly crowded field of GOP hopefuls vying for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman, critics thought perhaps the former president was making an error in judgment given that Vance was polling towards the bottom of the pack.
But in the week following that endorsement, Vance’s stock has risen and he now leads the GOP primary field, according to a Politico report:
He was lagging in the polls. His cash was running low. With the state’s primary fast approaching, J.D. Vance’s chances of winning the Ohio GOP Senate nomination didn’t look promising.
But his fortunes have changed dramatically in just the last week since Donald Trump delivered his endorsement, an intervention that has upended one of the most contentious Republican primaries in the nation.
More than $5 million in new donations have poured into a pro-Vance super PAC — just weeks earlier, it had spent nearly all of its available funds. Vance, the author of the book “Hillbilly Elegy,” has taken the lead in polling for the first time since entering the crowded Republican primary in July.
“I would not have told you, you know, a week ago that we were in a position to win convincingly,” Vance said in an interview Wednesday. “I felt pretty good about the race a week ago, but now I feel very good about it.”
Politico noted further that Vance was having cookies-and-cream milkshakes with his kids when the former president called to say that he won his endorsement. That call came some 20 minutes before Trump’s formal announcement went out a week ago Friday, according to a source aware of the conversation. Politico also noted that Trump’s endorsement of Vance came after “days of intense lobbying by Vance’s opponents to try to prevent” the 45th president “from intervening in the race.” But “Trump pulled the trigger anyway,” the outlet said.
“The catalytic effect of Trump’s endorsement in Ohio helps explain why Republican candidates across the nation have gone to such extreme lengths to win his favor this election cycle,” Politico added. “It’s a reminder of his hold on the party base, and of the prospect that he could still shake up Senate GOP primaries in Arizona, Missouri and New Hampshire — all states where he has yet to issue an endorsement — and Alabama, where Trump rescinded his earlier endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks.”
Vance added some observations of his own about Trump in his Politico interview.
“You know, in my heart, I always thought Trump would just feel the need to get involved. Like, for all the s**t that people give him. For all the crap that people give Trump, he’s actually a pretty ideological person. Like, he really cares about a lot of this stuff.
“And I think that eventually, he recognized that Ohio is an important state and he doesn’t want to have a terrible senator from Ohio — like, even a Republican who wins is not good unless it’s aligned with him ideologically. And I think that Trump saw that I was the guy,” Vance added.
In his endorsement statement, Trump praised the author-turned-politician for his various stances on issues including confronting China with tariffs as well as border and immigration policies, saying that “unlike so many other pretenders and wannabes, he will put America First.”
Donald Trump Jr. noted of Vance: “J.D. has actually been by far the most consistent in, and intellectually honest about, his positions and everything as it relates to Trump from day one.”
Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel claims he is still out-polling Vance but added at a fundraiser on Friday that the race is “tight.”
Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in Ohio on behalf of Vance Saturday evening.