Former President Trump is injecting himself into next year’s Ohio Senate race — for the sake of doing damage control ahead of his potential 2024 presidential run.
Last month, Trump reportedly called Club for Growth President David McIntosh to demand that the conservative organization take down its TV ads targeting Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, according to Politico.
The TV ads show footage of Vance in 2016 when he proclaimed himself a “Never Trump guy” and slammed Trump by calling the then-GOP presidential candidate an “idiot,” “noxious” and “offensive.”
Vance has since walked back his previous criticism of Trump in an effort to gain the former president’s endorsement.
McIntosh, an informal Trump adviser who keeps the former president in the loop about campaigns nationwide, reportedly told Trump that he would look into the TV ads that are critical of both the former president and Vance.
However, Politico noted that the Club has continued airing the $1 million TV buy and has reportedly piled another $500,000 into it.
Following the conversation between McIntosh and Trump, the Club for Growth reportedly sent Trump’s team a polling memo that claimed the TV ads won’t have an impact on the former president’s popularity. According to Politico, the memo outlined survey results pulled from four media markets across Ohio that compared Trump’s numbers before and after the commercials aired. The surveys found that Trump’s popularity wasn’t affected in any of the four markets.
“The polls … show that the advertising has had no effect on President Trump’s image as his favorable and unfavorable ratings changed by no more than a single point in any market,” a separate Club-commissioned memo said, according to Politico. The Club’s polling showed declining ratings for Vance.
Trump has reportedly been in contact with McIntosh since last month’s call, and the anti-Vance ads haven’t come up in their conversations.
Although the Club and McIntosh have branded themselves in recent years as staunch Trump allies by targeting the former president’s GOP critics, the Club spent millions of dollars in 2016 in an unsuccessful effort to prevent Trump from winning the GOP presidential nomination.
Trump’s reported involvement in the Ohio Senate race comes as he vows to endorse challengers of Republican lawmakers who refused to go along with his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
The former president, however, has yet to endorse a candidate in the Ohio Senate race. The Club has endorsed frontrunner and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel ahead of Ohio’s primary in May.
Vance has made efforts to gain Trump’s approval in the past year. In addition to participating in an “Apprentice”-style boardroom meeting with Trump, Vance traveled to Mar-a-Lago with his mentor and political benefactor, tech billionaire Peter Thiel, to meet with the former president.