Top conservative group fires back at Trump as Ohio Senate primary escalates into GOP civil war

US Senate Republican candidate JD Vance, who was endorsed by the former US President Donald Trump for the upcoming primary elections, shakes hands with Trump during an event hosted by him, at the county fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio, US, April 23, 2022. Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

The Club for Growth, long seen as one of the most powerful groups in Republican politics, is sticking with its pick in Ohio’s messy GOP despite primary attacks from top Trump allies backing a rival candidate.

The anti-tax organization, which is supporting the former state treasurer Josh Mandel in the contest, has begun airing a new ad taking direct aim at former President Trump’s endorsement of venture capitalist JD Vance. Trump backed Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” despite Vance’s previous criticism of Trump.

In the new ad, actors portraying Ohio voters are shown old footage of Vance knocking Trump. In one clip, Vance is shown declaring himself “a Never Trump guy” — a label used by Republicans who refused to support Trump in 2016 and 2020. In another, Vance suggests that he might vote for Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in 2016.

“Has Trump seen this?” one actor asks in the ad after viewing the footage, later saying of Vance, “Where does he get off saying that?”

Another says, “We’ve got our own eyes and our own ears.”

The ad also includes a reference to Trump’s support of Mitt Romney, with an actress disdainfully noting, “How’d that turn out?” Romney, now a Republican senator from Utah, has since emerged as a leading Trump critic within the GOP and voted twice for his impeachment.

“Look, I love Trump, but he’s getting it wrong with JD Vance, too,” says another actor.

It is not the first highlighting Vance’s past statements. Trump — which included Vance calling Trump “idiot,” “noxious” and “offensive” — late last year, worrying that they would hurt Trump’s popularity in the state.

Supporting Republican candidates in the 2020 election and has so far raised $38 million for the 2022 midterms, spending $13 million. For his part, Vance has become a stalwart Trump supporter in recent years and is a regular guest on Tucker Carlson’s primetime Fox News program.

Trump expected the Club’s media campaign to stop once he endorsed Vance, but when the continued attacks Trump had an assistant send the group’s president, David McIntosh, an .

In response, that they were buying more ad time in support of Mandel. The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., has since attacked both Mandel and the Club for Growth .

Although the Club for Growth opposed Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, it quickly fell in line behind him once he won the presidency and supported his reelection effort in 2020. Trump and the Club are backing many of the same candidates in Republican primaries this year , a fact McIntosh attempted to emphasize to the Times.

“I very much view this as one race where we’re not aligned, we’re on opposite sides, which doesn’t happen very often,” he told the paper.

Trump’s endorsement appears to be paying off in the crowded Ohio primary, which includes a number of other candidates in addition to Vance and Mandel. A showed Vance taking the lead in the race, with 23% support compared to Mandel’s 18%.

Republican senate candidate Josh Mandel speaks at a campaign event ahead of next month's primary election in Cortland, Ohio, US, April 21, 2022. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

Republican senate candidate Josh Mandel speaks at a campaign event ahead of next month’s primary election in Cortland, Ohio, US, April 21, 2022. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

The primary will be held May 3. The winner is expected to race likely Democratic nominee Rep. Tim Ryan in November’s general election.

Trump won Ohio in both 2016 and 2020 by eight points. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report currently predicts that the Republican nominee will have the edge in the general election.

Trump’s April 15 endorsement of Vance who are supporting other candidates in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. The former president where he explained the endorsement.

“He’s a guy that said some bad s*** about me,” Trump said of Vance. “If I went by that standard, I don’t think I would have ever endorsed anybody in the country.”

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