Former President Trump on Friday night officially endorsed Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance — the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and former Trump critic who spent the past several months repenting for his previous jabs at Trump — against the wishes of some of his advisers as well as Ohio state Republican leaders.
In true Trumpian fashion, the former president aired his grievances of Vance’s past criticisms of him in his statement announcing his endorsement of the “Hillbilly Elegy” author, before saying that Vance “gets it now” after months of walking back his previous swipes at the former president.
“Like some others, J.D. Vance may have said some not so great things about me in the past, but he gets it now, and I have seen that in spades,” Trump said, before quipping that Vance is “our best chance for victory” in the Ohio Senate GOP primary.
“This is not an easy endorsement for me to make because I like and respect some of the other candidates in the race—they’ve said great things about ‘Trump’ and, like me, they love Ohio and love our Country,” Trump continued, before characterizing Vance’s rivals as pretenders and wannabes.”
The former president’s endorsement of Vance followed NBC News’ report on Trump’s expected endorsement in the hotly contested Ohio Senate GOP primary.
Some of Trump’s advisers, who work for other candidates in the Ohio Senate race, reportedly pushed back at the prospect of his endorsement of Vance, according to the Washington Post. Those advisers reportedly pointed to Vance’s negative comments of Trump in the past.
Additionally, other Ohio Senate candidates and operatives lobbied more than two dozen GOP leaders in Ohio to sign a letter opposing an endorsement of Vance from Trump — which also cited Vance’s past criticisms of Trump.
“We know there are many qualified candidates in this race who have stood up for the America First agenda over the years and have carried the Trump mantle over the years, again with the notable exception of JD Vance,” Ohio GOP leaders wrote in their letter to Trump that was obtained by the Associated Press. “While we were working hard in Ohio to support you and Make America Great Again, JD Vance was actively working against your candidacy.”
Trump reportedly stopped taking calls on Friday after he was bombarded with them following NBC News’ report on his endorsement of Vance, according to the Washington Post.
Trump’s endorsement of Vance came days after he endorsed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the crowded Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary. The former president’s endorsement of Oz drew backlash among a number of Trumpworld figures, who characterized Oz as the next Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), a vehement critic of Trump.
Much like his endorsement for Oz, Trump was reportedly swayed by Vance’s performance on TV, particularly video clips of a Republican primary debate that featured two of Vance’s rivals, former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel and financier Mike Gibbons, getting into a heated exchange. Trump was also impressed by Vance’s performance in the last debate, according to the New York Times.
The former president also took a liking to Vance’s appearances on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show, according to Axios.
According to the Times, supporters of Vance such as billionaires Peter Thiel, Carlson and Donald Trump Jr. heavily lobbied the former president to endorse Vance.
Vance managed to crawl back into Trump’s good graces after spending months distancing himself from his previous criticism of the former president.
Soon after deleting old anti-Trump tweets last year, Vance told Fox News that he “regrets being wrong about” the former president.
Among his efforts to appeal to MAGA voters, Vance also tweaked his persona, which includes speaking in an “angry register” as he referred to lawmakers in Washington as “idiots” who “hate” hardworking Americans, according to the Washington Post.
Vance also welcomed the support of far-right lawmaker and QAnon-friendly Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) last month.