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Trump’s rally in Ohio comes amid criticism of JD Vance’s endorsement

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  • Trump is backing JD Vance in the race to succeed Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
  • Vance got the nod despite his well-documented criticism of Trump in 2016.
  • Vance’s first appearance on stage Saturday was met with a mixture of boos and cheers.

Former President Donald Trump traveled to Ohio on Saturday to rally supporters behind his chosen candidate for the state’s controversial U.S. Senate race.

Trump took the stage shortly before 7 p.m. at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, hours after people first arrived to hear him speak on an unusually hot April day. The former president used the appearance to air grievances about his White House successor and criticized Democratic policies on the US-Mexico border, inflation and law enforcement.

Throughout his speech, there were references to author and venture capitalist JD Vance, whom Trump is backing in the GOP primary to replace retired Sen. Rob Portman. In his opening on Vance’s candidacy — which came nearly an hour after the speech — Trump touted Vance as the best chance to keep the Senate seat in Republican hands.

“I’ve been studying this very closely,” Trump told the crowd. “I like a lot of other people in the race. I liked them a lot. But we have to pick who’s going to win. This guy is tough as hell. He’s going to win.”

Trump’s decision was a blow to the other candidates in the race who have spent months clamoring for his support: former state treasurer Josh Mandel, investment banker Mike Gibbons and former president of the Republican Party of Ohio Jane Timken. Only State Sen. Matt Dolan, whom Trump empathetically said he would not approve of, did not seek the former president’s endorsement.

Former President Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a rally in Delaware, Ohio on Saturday, April 23, 2022.

None of Vance’s opponents attended Saturday’s rally.

Vance got the nod despite his well-documented criticism of Trump in 2016. More recently, a former roommate of Vance’s posts from that year in which Vance questioned whether Trump was “America’s Hitler “.

Trump acknowledged Vance’s negative comments during his speech.

“But you know what, every one of the others did too. In fact, if I had followed that standard, I don’t think I would have ever endorsed anyone in the country,” Trump said.

April 23, 2022;  Delaware, Ohio, USA;  Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

JD Vance’s endorsement hangs over the rally

Trump was aiming to encourage supporters to rally behind Vance, even as some Ohio Republicans are expressing frustration with the endorsement. Several groups have called on voters to demonstrate on the fairgrounds, and 33 Trump delegates from 2016 penned a letter calling on the former president to reconsider.

Vance’s first appearance on stage Saturday was met with a mixture of boos and cheers.

Some attendees said they would support Vance based on Trump’s endorsement, but others said they wanted to research the nominees themselves. Christy Bessey of Lebanon said she leans towards Mandel and accused Vance of jumping on the Trump bandwagon. Her husband, Wals, is a Vance supporter.

US Senate candidate JD Vance speaks at the Trump rally Saturday, April 23 in Delaware Ohio.

The two said they would listen to the two candidates speak at upcoming events and base their final decision on that.

“I don’t want anyone to get there by carrying someone else’s name,” Christy Bessey said.

Vance, for his part, was quick to acknowledge during his remarks that he was late to kissing Trump, but praised him repeatedly throughout the event. He also ticked off positions on tech companies, immigration and public health mandates in a bid to energize the crowd.

“When we get to the Senate, we’re going to do something,” Vance said. “No more talk. No more slogans. No more politicians mocking corrupt Big Tech and FBI officials. It’s time for consequences, and it’s time for action.”

Former President Donald Trump addresses the crowd in Delaware, Ohio on Saturday, April 22, 2022.

The former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., traveled to northeast Ohio this week to campaign with Vance, and the two will campaign together again on Monday. Vance and Trump Jr. had previously been spotted together at fundraisers, and Trump Jr. defended Vance’s credentials before his father approved them.

“The MAGA movement is strongly united behind my father’s endorsement of JD Vance, which you can see by the surge he’s seen in the polls since the endorsement,” Trump Jr. said in a statement. friday. “It’s unfortunate that career politician Josh Mandel is pushing his supporters, some of whom are unemployed, to boycott a Trump Rally. Very no MAGA of him!

April 23, 2022;  Delaware, Ohio, USA;  Spectators wait for former President Donald Trump to hold a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau reporter Mary Jane Sanese contributed.

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliate news organizations across Ohio.

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