Former President Donald Trump officially endorsed “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance on Friday in Ohio’s crowded Senate Republican primary, calling him “the candidate most qualified and ready to win in November.”
“I’ve studied this race closely and I think J.D. is the most likely to take out the weak, but dangerous, Democrat opponent — dangerous because they will have so much money to spend. However, J.D. will destroy him in the debates and will fight for the MAGA Movement in the Senate,” Trump said in a statement, referring to Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.
NBC News was first to report on Thursday that Trump was planning to endorse Vance, and had been holding off under intense pressure from the rival Republican campaigns of Josh Mandel and Jane Timken, sources said.
In his statement, Trump called on “the entire MAGA movement” to “unite behind J.D.’s campaign.”
Mandel indicated he wasn’t going anywhere.
“I continue to be a proud supporter of President Trump and the America First agenda. I look forward to earning his endorsement in the general election and working with him to defeat Tim Ryan in November,” he tweeted after Trump’s announcement.
A source close to Mandel’s campaign said they’d tried to sway Trump from endorsing Vance by sharing an internal poll that showed Mandel would be in front of the field with 33 percent of the vote if he had Trump’s endorsement, followed by Matt Dolan and Mike Gibbons tied at 15 percent, and then Vance and Timken both at 9 percent.
Vance, the poll showed, would only go up to 15 percentage points.
The May 3 primary is winner-take-all, so the candidate with the plurality of votes moves on to the general election in November.