WVXU: Analysis: GOP Senate Primary May Be Ohio’s Ugliest Ever
December 8, 2021
Columbus, OH — According to a new column from WVXU’s Howard Wilkinson, Ohio’s GOP Senate primary has “descended into meanness and pettiness and just plain craziness unlike anything ever seen in Ohio Republican politics.”
Wilkinson goes on to call the crowded race a “Dumpster fire of a Senate primary” and compares it to the Springfield tire fire in The Simpsons, a “smoking mountain of burning car tires smack in the middle of town that nobody can find a way to extinguish.” This follows a report last week from Fox News arguing “the showdown is fast becoming the most expensive and ugly GOP Senate contest in next year’s midterms.”
December 8, 2021
- This Republican U.S. Senate primary is something like the running gag in The Simpsons about the Springfield tire fire – a smoking mountain of burning car tires smack in the middle of town that nobody can find a way to extinguish.
- It just burns on and on, stinking up the town and driving the good townsfolk of Springfield insane.
- Yes, just like the Ohio GOP Senate primary, which has descended into meanness and pettiness and just plain craziness unlike anything ever seen in Ohio Republican politics.
- It’s all because five of the principal candidates – former state treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken, Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, investment banker Mike Gibbons and car dealer Bernie Moreno – have spent most of the year crawling on their hands and knees to curry the favor of their Fearless Leader, Donald Trump.
- Donald Trump, who won Ohio’s electoral votes by 8 percentage points in both 2016 and 2020, is the object of their desire because these candidates seem to believe with every fiber of their beings that, come next May, GOP primary voters will blindly follow whichever candidate they believe to be the Trumpiest.
- “Republican politics in Ohio has taken a very abrupt right turn,” said David Niven, associate professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati. “Ohio has gone with reasonable, respectable Republicans to angry, mean-spirited candidates in the blink of an eye. It’s remarkable.”
- Ohio, Niven said, has had a long tradition of electing Republicans who were conservative, to be sure, but who could never be mistaken for extremist – people like George Voinovich, Rob Portman, Mike DeWine and John Kasich.
- You could never imagine one of the aforementioned Republicans saying the kind of things that Mandel – who seems to be the leader of the pack in inflammatory rhetoric – does, including saying that he refuses to call President Biden “president” because Donald Trump was really elected and the whole election was a fraud.
- Or how about this nugget Mandel dropped on Ohioans after President Biden issued a vaccine mandate for federal employees back in September:
- “Do not comply with the tyranny,” Mandel tweeted, in a rather ominous tone. “When the Gestapo show up at your door, you know what to do.”
- Andrew Weinstein, chair of the Democratic Lawyers Council, said that statement by Mandel amounted to “inciting violence and invoking a Nazi organization.”
- Strange as such rhetoric is, it is not the strangest thing going on in this Dumpster fire of a Senate primary.
- The strangest thing is the amount of money being spent to tear down Vance, formerly of Middletown and now a wealthy author and venture capitalist, whose campaign has benefited from a Super PAC funded by an even more successful venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, who backed Trump’s campaign.
- The Club for Growth, a conservative organization funded in large part by billionaires, has endorsed Mandel and has spent nearly $1 million so far in TV ads that do not mention Mandel but go after Vance with video of statements of he made in 2016 which were not exactly reverential toward Trump.
- “I’m a ‘Never Trump’ guy,” Vance says in one of the video clips. “I never liked him. As somebody who doesn’t like Trump, I might have to hold my nose and vote for Hillary Clinton.”
- Another clip: “I didn’t vote for Trump because I can’t stomach him. I think that he is noxious.”
- And there are a few bits from Twitter where the 2016-Vance calls Trump “reprehensible” and “an idiot.”
- Gibbons, who seems to enjoy filming TV ads on football fields, has spent $500,000 on a TV ad bashing Vance for the same statements, asking the question, “Who’s cheering for the wrong team?”
- The 2021-Vance loudly proclaims that he was a Trump fan in the 2020 campaign because he could see how much Trump meant to the working poor that Vance wrote about in Hillbilly Elegy.
- If all of this money is being spent to curry favor with Trump and win his endorsement – well, it’s not working.
- Trump, believe it or not, has been all over the Club for Growth’s back, complaining that the ads that feature Vance trashing Trump in 2016 are hurting his standing among Ohio voters, who voted for him twice in presidential elections.
- He can’t stand hearing anyone say anything negative about him. No way, no how.
- Typical Trump: It’s all about me.
- Of course, Trump hasn’t endorsed anybody in this race. He may never. He’s already got the one thing he wanted out of Ohio in 2022 – he helped force out northeast Ohio congressman Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 GOP House members to vote to impeach Trump back in January.
- But somebody’s got to win this messed-up primary and whoever that may be is going to have to run statewide – where there are plenty of ‘Never Trump’ voters and Republicans who won’t transfer their love for Trump to someone else.
- “One of these Republicans is going to have to run statewide and that is an entirely different matter than running in a Republican primary, especially in a primary where loyalty to Trump is all the candidates talk about,” Niven said. “It will be a tough race.”
- In the end, all the crawling and begging for Trump’s approval the GOP Senate candidates are doing could only end up getting them scraped knees.