Trump’s Oz and Vance Bring Cash Boon, Backlash | Pennsylvania News

By JILL COLVIN, MARC LEVY and JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s late endorsements in hypercompetitive Republican Senate primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania have unlocked a flood of support for his chosen candidates, including millions in cash.

But the endorsements have also prompted backlash from some Republicans who believe Trump betrayed his core supporters by supporting ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author JD Vance in Ohio and TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. . Both candidates have been criticized for time spent outside their states and for their lack of commitment to the former president and his “America First” agenda.

The blowback included calls from a large conservative group aligned with a Vance rival to boycott the rally Trump is hosting on Saturday night to try to boost his candidate. The state’s Tea Party movement, which overwhelmingly supports Trump, is also planning an outdoor protest.

“To him, endorsing JD Vance really seemed like President Trump was out of touch with what’s happening in Ohio and what his supporters here want,” said Tom Zawistowski, an executive with the group.

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It’s unclear whether Trump’s support will pull Vance and Oz across the finish line in races that will serve as key early tests of the former president’s influence in this year’s midterm elections. But the endorsements pose a risk for Trump, who has staked his status as a GOP kingmaker on his ability to mobilize his supporters as he eyes another run for the White House in 2024.

In Ohio, Trump’s endorsement was a major boon for Vance, who was trailing in the polls prior to Trump’s intervention. While allies admit that Trump’s announcement at 5 p.m. on Good Friday, less than three weeks before the May 3 primary election, may not have been the most desirable time, the campaign nonetheless points to a 300% increase in online donations – a majority of new donors – including $20,000 raised online and $30,000 from bundlers this Friday alone.

Protect Ohio Values, the Vance-backing super PAC, says it’s grossed $5 million since Trump’s endorsement. That includes a $3.5 million check from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who had already donated $10 million, Politico first reported.

Both groups are using the money to run new ads trumpeting Trump’s endorsement that they expect to run exclusively for the rest of the campaign.

“We want to make sure 100% of people know about it. And we’re going to pull out all the stops on that,” said Luke Thompson, who leads the super PAC, which has found Vance’s support grows when voters are told he’s Trump’s choice.

Ohio strategists and rival campaigns had long conceded the endorsement of Trump, who remains deeply popular with Republican voters despite his 2020 election loss and his role in instigating the 6 January, was likely to push any candidate ahead of the pack. Vance’s aides see the endorsement as particularly helpful for their candidate given that the main line of attack filed against him has been his past criticism of Trump.

But the endorsement has also sparked deep resentment from those backing Vance’s rivals, who launched a furious last-ditch effort last week to try to change Trump’s mind. Trump has called on his supporters to rally around Vance, but Vance’s main rivals, including the Trump-aligned Growth Club, which backs former state treasurer Josh Mandel, have so far refused to withdraw. Instead, they continued to run anti-Vance ads, drawing anger in particular from Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who campaigned for Vance and is expected to return to the state on Monday for a full day of events.

Joe Kildea, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, said the group would increase spending in the coming days to run even more anti-Vance ads.

Ohio Value Voters, a conservative group that has also backed Mandel, called for a boycott of Trump’s rally on Saturday. The band, in a statement, said Trump had made a “terrible decision” and that those who decide to attend should let Trump know that Vance is “bad for Ohio” by booing when he takes the stage. .

Zawistowski, the Tea Party leader, warned that the endorsement could end up splitting Trump’s support base in the state’s three main lanes between Vance, Mandel and Cleveland banker Mike Gibbons. He said it could pave the way for victory for former GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken or even moderate Sen. Matt Dolan, the only candidate in the race who hasn’t promised to support Trump and his positions if he does. was elected.

So far, some voters are siding with Trump.

Linda Davidson, a retired financial consultant from Kirtland, said Trump’s endorsement “greatly” crystallized her vote for Vance.

“Actually, I was waiting. I couldn’t decide,’ she said after an event in the Cleveland suburb of Independence on Wednesday. “I was a little confused as to who to vote for.”

But at a Mandel event near Cleveland on Thursday, Jeanine Hammack, the Republican Party’s campaign chair from Strongsville, said Trump’s endorsement would “not at all” sway his vote.

“We love Trump. Always,” she said, adding that she’s sure the former president “has his reasons” for choosing Vance, but that she knows Mandel better.

In Pennsylvania, Oz has been experiencing a similar bump since Trump’s surprise April 9 endorsement in his close race against former hedge fund CEO David McCormick. The week following Trump’s endorsement was Oz’s best digital fundraising week since launching his campaign late last year, with the campaign bringing in nearly three times as much money as the campaign. previous week, campaign manager Casey Contres said.

Some supporters admit Oz could still lose the May 17 primary with Trump’s backing, but say he likely couldn’t have won without it. His team shifted their advertising strategy for television and digital presentations to focus on the former president’s announcement.

“It’s a game-changer,” said John Fredericks, a radio host who had urged Trump to support the famed doctor.

“Trump’s endorsement gave people a chance to stop and think and go, ‘Wait a minute. I’ve seen this guy on TV helping people for 30 years. Trump sees it too. And now I’m going to take a second look,” Fredericks said.

Oz acknowledged the impact during a virtual town hall Trump held Friday night to rally support for his candidate.

“Mr. President, there are a lot of voters who are passionate about you and who said they came to see me because of your support,” Oz said, before asking Trump if he “would be willing to allay people’s fears” attesting to Oz’s conservative credentials.

Trump assured listeners that the doctor was the only candidate who had his support and the only one he believed could win the general election.

It was an acknowledgment that Trump’s endorsement of a man with little history with the Republican Party — let alone Pennsylvania, having lived in New Jersey for the past two decades — has troubled the public. party activists who aren’t sold on Oz and think it’s insufficiently conservative on issues like guns and abortion.

While some county party officials said the endorsement did not divide Republicans any more than they already had given the primary field of seven candidates, some county party officials pointed to a wave of angry calls.

“Conservative Trumpers are very upset with his endorsement, and they can’t understand it,” said Arnold McClure, chairman of the Republican Party in rural Huntingdon County, where Trump won 75% of the vote in 2020. Trump era is over in Pennsylvania because of his endorsement of Dr. Oz.

Colvin reported from New York and Levy from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. AP video reporter Patrick Orsagos in Ohio contributed to this report.

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