US Elections 2024: Ohio primaries test Trump’s influence in the Republican Party | International
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The picturesque list of the seven candidates for the Ohio Republican primaries for the United States Senate, which take place this Tuesday, can be seen as a good summary of the present and the future of a party in search of its true soul and that still lives. in the shadow of Donald Trump. It is led by Josh Mandel, who is obsessed with immigration and thinks that the real racists are Black Lives Matter activists, and an ex-marine named JD Vance, turned first into a venture capital investor, and then into an author of a best-selling book about how the United States pushed poor, white America off a moving train. Also competing in the race are Mike Gibbons, a businessman who doesn’t want to be taken for a politician; Matt Dolan, a state legislator whose family owns the Cleveland baseball team; Jane Timken, a woman supported by the outgoing senator, Rob Portman, who seems to have decided to throw in the towel; and Neil Patel and Mark Pukita, two entrepreneurs with few options.
And then there is the Trump candidate. This vote, which is open, is also proof of his real ascendancy among the Republicans, who are torn between continuing their aggressive path to profit from the discontent of the inhabitants of that enormous piece of land that separates the two coasts of the United States, or embark on the party’s path back to the old moderation.
Ohio, with Indiana, opens the mid-term legislative election campaign, in which control of the Senate and the House of Representatives is at stake; and that they certainly look bad for the Democrats. The interest of the US media has been focused on these early stages in Trump and the candidates he has decided to support following a pattern that, true to his style, has not always obeyed logic. To what extent Republican voters will support the former president’s bets is one of the unknowns that everyone in his formation, friends or enemies of Trump, is eager to clear up to calculate his chances of returning to the White House in 2024.
That’s why, in addition to each other, Ohio hopefuls have competed for his attention. And the chosen one has finally been Vance, 37, who achieved national and international fame with the publication of Hilbilly: A Country Elegy, where he portrayed the misfortunes of an Appalachian family, his own, leaving nothing out: drug addiction, alcoholism, deindustrialization, the domestic accumulation of weapons or hopelessness. The memory, which sold three million copies, became after Trump’s victory in 2016 the urgent reference manual to understand who had voted for it (and also in a movie, produced by Netflix, which did not do so well).
Vance received Trump’s endorsement on April 15, with a message in which the former president, for once, swallowed his pride: “He hasn’t said great things about me in the past (…). But it is our best option to win in a race that is expected to be tough”. The candidate has not stopped in recent years in his attacks on Trump, whom he has defined as “the Hitler of the United States”, “a total fraud” and “a moral disaster”. Both threw hairs into the sea on April 23 during a rally in Delaware County, in which Vance, acclaimed by the public and in the presence of Trump, said: “He is right. I was not always nice to him, but it is clear that he is the best president I have ever seen and that he revealed corruption in this country like no one else.”
In the message in which he made his support public, the tycoon acknowledged that his decision had cost him his share: “I like and respect some of the other candidates, they have said great things about ‘Trump’ [sic] And, like me, they love Ohio and they love our country.” Until the surprise came, his favorite seemed to be Josh Mandel, a man with the carelessness of a full-blooded Trumpist: he continues to believe that the Democrats stole the 2020 election from theirs, that the United States is governed by the radical left and that the country slides towards a dictatorship woke up, a term that defines those who identify with struggles such as homosexual rights, racism or freedom of gender choice and that the American right uses as a throwing weapon. The proof that the thing was close in Trump’s head was provided by himself on Sunday in a slip that became viral. It was during a rally in Nebraska, in which he merged the names of both candidates into one: JD Mandel.
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The candidates have rushed the last weekend of the campaign. Gibbons, the self-made guy who has financed himself with $17 million out of his own pocket, considered it “an insult to the citizens of Ohio that Trump has bet on Vance”, because he spent a part of his life in San Francisco. Senator Dolan, the one who has distanced himself the most from the former president, has campaigned from house to house, also among Democrats, betting on “stop looking at the past”; while Timken, the only woman in the race, has chosen to stop spending on television election ads, giving an idea of the prospects of the candidate most associated with the establishment.
Vance, for his part, invited two of the most extreme wing members of his party to an event on Saturday: Congressmen Matt Gaetz (Florida) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia). Greene opened fire with a salvo of obsessions from the political and media extreme right of this country: the medical tyranny on the subject of vaccines, Disney, which turns children into homosexuals, and the supposed open borders policy to destabilize the United States. by filling it with immigrants.
More pragmatic, Vance decided to focus on Ohio’s economic problems: the free trade agreements that have driven the relocation of many of the industries that brought prosperity to Ohio, the Chinese threat, or Wall Street’s greed. Vance’s rhetoric is in tune with Trump’s America First. Throughout the campaign he has wanted to send the message that if he is elected to the Senate, he will put his neighbors first.
Since the days of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), Ohio has always voted the same as the United States as a whole, except on one occasion: in 2020, when the Republicans took the State, and Joe Biden, the House White. The candidate who is elected this Tuesday will presumably face Democrat Tim Ryan, a member of the House of Representatives in Washington since 2013.
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