Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and Palantir, dumped $10 million into a SuperPAC backing “Hillbilly Elegy” author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, who may run for retiring Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) seat.
Thiel deposited the money into a SuperPAC called Protect Ohio Values, created last month to support a possible Vance run, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Thiel publicly backed President Donald Trump in 2016, and endorsed his candidacy at the Republican National Convention. He sat out the 2020 election, feeling that Trump was a long shot.
Vance, also a Trump supporter, has been making recent appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight and tweeting about Dr. Seuss and the southern border, putting himself in line with current GOP priorities.
If Vance does join the race, he won’t be the only one aiming to mold himself in the former president’s image.
Josh Mandel, former state treasurer who ran twice against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), has so far made his mark by tweeting outrageous and potentially dangerous statements particularly about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the city’s major newspaper, recently published a letter from the editor describing the paper’s reluctance to publish Mandel’s “idiotic” and “attention-seeking” claims, especially given his history of lying. Among other things, Mandel has characterized the 2020 election as “stolen” from Trump.
Recently, he threatened violence in response to the idea of a “certificate” to prove that a person has received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dear @GovMikeDewine, WE THE PEOPLE are putting you on notice that if you try to institute a “vaccine passport”:
WE WILL REVOLT ✊?✊?✊?
WE WILL RISE UP ⚔️⚔️⚔️
WE WILL DEFEND OUR FREEDOM ?????? https://t.co/alXh5p45H7
— Josh Mandel (@JoshMandelOhio) March 12, 2021
Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken, another Republican in the race so far, has been Trumpifying herself too, seemingly jockeying with Mandel for the former president’s endorsement. Recently, she demanded that Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) resign for voting to impeach Trump just a month after saying he must have had a “rational reason” to vote yes and calling him a “very good person.”
Trump was talked out of making an early endorsement in the race by advisers, including his son Don Jr., during a meeting where he reportedly mused about whether Timken was sufficiently loyal to him, according to a recent Axios report.
No Democrats have formally announced yet, though Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) has made it fairly clear that he intends to. Amy Acton, the former director of the state health department, and Emilia Strong Sykes, the state House minority leader, are also potential contenders.