J.D. Vance, who recently announced his bid for the open Ohio senate seat becoming the fifth GOP candidate, apologized for past social media posts that criticized then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016,” said Vance, author of best-selling book “Hillbilly Elegy.”
Vance’s 2016 memoir in part explained why many past Democrats living in areas that had been economically neglected by lawmakers voted to elect Trump in 2016.
“Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016, and I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open about the fact that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy,” said Vance during a Fox News interview during the July 4 weekend. “I think that he was a good president. I think he made a lot of good decisions for people and I think he took a lot of flak.”
“I’ve taken a lot of flak myself in the last few years for standing up for the president’s voters, but also standing up for the agenda,” he added. “And I think that’s the most important thing, is not what you said five years ago but whether you’re willing to stand up and take the heat and take the hits for actually defending the interests of the American people, because that’s what this business of politics should be all about.”
After Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced his retirement earlier this year, all of the GOP Senate candidates have been scrambling for an endorsement by the former president. Trump so far has not formally endorsed any of them.
Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County, Ohio, said it makes sense that GOP candidates would want Trump’s endorsement because he is popular in Ohio.
“To the extent that it’s being characterized as a cult of personality, I reject that,” Triantafilou said. “It’s about a set of principles that he boldly put into place as president. And that’s why you’re seeing our candidates running to garner the support of the people who loved his agenda.”
Ohio’s second incumbent U.S. senator, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) had a different take: “The five Republican candidates for Senate are like kids on a playground sticking their tongue out and saying Donald Trump loves me more than he loves you,” he said.
Peter Thiel, a billionaire who was also one of the earliest investors in Facebook, donated $10 million to the Protect Ohio Values PAC, according to Bryan Lanza, the communications director for the PAC.
Protect Ohio Values was created to support Vance’s bid for the U.S. Senate, the group’s website states. The formal paperwork was filed late last month.
The PAC said in a press statement, “Conservative outsider JD Vance will be a champion for Donald Trump’s America First agenda in the Senate, bringing real change to the Buckeye State.”
Vance said his belief in America and his desire to make the country better will set him apart from the other GOP candidates.
“And I think once people get a sense of who I am, of what I care about, of where I come from, and where I see the country and its opportunities, then I don’t worry that what I said about President Trump, or anything else, five years ago is going to be the defining issue of the campaign. I think the defining issue of this campaign is going to be how do we stop the elites from plundering the greatest country of the world,” said Vance.
Ivan Pentchoukov and the Associated Press contributed to this report.